Heart Attack (Acute Myocardial Infarction)

Heart attacks are often caused by coronary artery disease. Lehigh Valley Heart Institute consistently ranks among the nation’s leaders in heart attack survival. We’re also the only center in the region with the expertise to treat a very serious heart attack, or STEMI.

When your heart is deprived of blood and oxygen during a heart attack (also called myocardial infarctions, or MI), heart muscle starts to die. Prompt medical treatment is key to saving heart muscle. 

Through Lehigh Valley Heart Institute's rapid heart attack care program, MI Alert for Heart Attacks, we partner with local emergency responders to quickly diagnose heart attacks and prepare for your treatment as you’re transported to our hospital. Thanks to advances like MI Alert, the Heart Institute consistently ranks among the best in the nation for heart attack survival.

Train conductor's life saved at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono

Heart attack symptoms

Heart attack symptoms vary by individual and can come and go for hours or days. You should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these heart attack signs:

  • Chest pain that feels like pressure or squeezing in the center or left side of your chest
  • Upper body discomfort, such as pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweat
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Light-headedness or dizziness

Treating heart attacks

We’re the only center in the region with the expertise to treat very serious heart attacks, called ST-elevated myocardial infarctions (STEMI). We have excellent door-to-balloon times, which reflect how quickly we start treatment once you enter the emergency department. Heart attack treatment options include:

  • Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI): Your doctor threads a catheter with a balloon on its tip through a blood vessel to reach the blocked artery. The balloon inflates to compress the plaque against the artery wall, allowing blood to flow. Your doctor may place a small, mesh tube called a stent into the artery to keep it open.
  • Heart bypass surgery: Your doctor bypasses blocked sections of arteries and creates new passages for blood to flow to your heart muscle. Our heart specialists perform a large number of heart surgeries every year, which means you’re in very capable hands.
  • Therapeutic hypothermia: The Heart Institute is among a select few centers in the country using targeted temperature management to lower the core body temperature of patients experiencing cardiac arrest. The treatment may help prevent brain damage.  
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO): This machine gives your heart a chance to rest and heal by pumping and oxygenating blood outside of your body. 
  • Directional coronary atherectomy: Your doctor uses a catheter (a small, thin tube) with a small blade on the end to shave off fatty deposits that have built up inside the artery.
  • Medications: Thrombolytic medicines dissolve clots, while nitroglycerin improves blood flow.
  • Cardiovascular rehab: After your heart attack, you can work with heart and exercise specialists in our cardiac rehab program to improve your heart health.

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