Heart Attack

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Heart Attack Expertise

U.S. News & World Report has given our heart attack care services the highest possible ratingsThat means our heart attack care ranks higher than the national average.

In 2016, we earned the Platinum Performance Achievement Award for exceptional heart attack care from the American College of Cardiology’s ACTION Registry®-Get With The Guidelines™.

Heart attack care at UVA includes:

  • 24/7 on-site care to help ensure you receive care as quickly as possible
  • Physicians who open blocked arteries 13 minutes faster than the national average time*
  • A 50% lower mortality rate than the national average*
  • 28 beds for cardiovascular emergencies
  • Five specialized procedure rooms for heart attack patients 
  • Surgical staff and five operating rooms in case you need open-heart surgery
  • A Chest Pain Center for rapid heart attack assessment and treatment that also conducts research on innovative techniques for evaluating and diagnosing acute, emergent chest pain 

Heart Attack Recovery: Get Extra Support

Recovery and healing after a heart attack takes time and patience. At UVA, we offer a special Heart Attack Recovery Clinic. A week after leaving the hospital, you meet with a team of specialists. You get personal, one-on-one time with a cardiologist, exercise physiologist, pharmacist and dietitian.

You don't have to readjust to normal life on your own. With personalized guidance on what to eat, how to exercise, we help you map out your journey to health. 

*Source: American College of Cardiology National Cardiovascular Data Registry Percutaneous Coronary Intervention/Catheterization Registry (ACC NCDR PCI/Cath Registry) April 2015 - March 2016


STEMI Heart Attack Treatment

STEMI heart attacks are blockages of the coronary artery, which require rapid treatment. UVA's team is ready 24/7 to open the blockages and minimize damage to the heart. View STEMI transcript.


Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

At UVA, we can diagnose you by using these tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Echocardiogram
  • Stress test 
  • Nuclear scanning
  • Electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT)
  • Coronary angiography

Within the first six hours after a heart attack, we may give you medication to break up blood clots in the coronary arteries. If you have severe blockages, you may need immediate surgery, such as:

  • Balloon angioplasty, with or without stenting
  • Atherectomy
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)

What Causes a Heart Attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is interrupted. Oxygen can't get to the heart muscle, which causes tissue damage or tissue death.

A heart attack may be caused by:

  • Thickening of coronary arteries
  • Accumulation of fatty plaques in the coronary arteries
  • Narrowing of the coronary arteries
  • Spasm of the coronary arteries
  • Development of a blood clot in the coronary arteries
  • Embolism that affects the coronary arteries

A STEMI heart attack is a type of heart attack where the coronary artery is completely blocked by a clot. 

Your doctor can diagnose a STEMI heart attack through a particular pattern that appears on an electrocardiogram (EKG).

Heart Attack Symptoms

Severity of heart attack symptoms may vary and can easily be interpreted as something else. A quick diagnosis and treatment is essential to your survival. You may be having a heart attack if you experience:

  • Squeezing, heavy chest pain behind breastbone, especially with:
    • Exercise or exertion
    • Emotional stress
    • Cold weather
    • A large meal
  • Pain or numbness in the left shoulder, left arm or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweaty or clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Anxiety, especially feeling a sense of doom or panic without apparent reason

If you experience signs of a heart attack, call 911 immediately. 


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.