How stents save lives of myocardial infarction patients

Myocardial Infarction results from damage to the heart muscle caused by sudden deprivation of circulating blood due to thrombosis (clotting) at one or several of its coronary arteries. Dire consequences of Myocardial Infarction can be minimized if blood circulation is quickly restored in the affected artery. Stenting is the most effective method to achieve that.

What causes Myocardial Infarction and how it progresses?

With age atherosclerotic plaques may build up on the inner walls of the coronary arteries. The plagues narrow the arteries but it may not cause any symptoms until they rupture. Plague rupture causes a blood clot to form in just a few minutes on the damaged plague surface, which completely blocks the blood flow through the artery. The portion of heart muscle fed by the artery cannot get oxygen and cell nutrients. Muscle cells in that section of the heart fail to contract and eventually die, if blood flow is not restored within one hour. This injury results in necrosis of a significant portion of the heart muscle, which is Myocardial Infarction.

What are the symptoms of Myocardial Infarction?

Acute chest pain is the most common symptom of Myocardial Infarction. It can spread into the left arm, shoulder, neck and into the back. Quite often the pain is accompanied by fear. This is how one Myocardial Infarction patient described his feelings: «Imagine that you swallowed half of a hard green apple and it got stuck mid-way in your throat. And this is very painful, because it is tearing from inside!” Sometimes Myocardial Infarction has atypical symptoms: acute abdominal pain, asthma attack, mental confusion or speech difficulty. In rare cases - most commonly in patients who also have diabetes - Myocardial Infarction patients may not present with any pain at all, and only have symptoms of sudden weakness and shortness of breath.

What should I do if I suspect a Myocardial Infarction?

Immediately call the ambulance! Stenting, which is the most effective method to treat Myocardial Infarction, can be performed only in the endovascular unit of a hospital, to where the patient should be brought as soon as possible.

A stent is a compressed mesh metal tube that is delivered to the area of the clogged coronary artery. At the site of the blocked artery the stent is expanded against the artery wall. Fully expanded stent completely restores blood flow inside the vessel and keeps the artery walls open.

The damaged section of the heart muscle starts to receive oxygen and nutrients, and that stops further development of Myocardial Infarction. Stenting procedures are performed using local anesthesia, through a small cut in the artery on your arm or leg. The earlier stenting is performed in a Myocardial Infarction patient the less damage is done to his or her heart muscle. Ideal timing to perform a stenting procedure is 1.5 – 2.0 hours from symptom onset. If there are no complications the patient can be discharged the following day after the procedure. Stenting helps not only to save lives but also to prevent disability. Stenting performed in time significantly reduces mortality from Myocardial Infarction.

Terms frequently used by doctors

“Myocardial Infarction” is a common term known to many, but at present doctors, when performing primary diagnostics or evaluating the choice of treatment, use the term “Acute Coronary Syndrome” or ACS more and more frequently. ACS includes unstable angina, which has the main symptom of acute heart pain, and which can be a precursor of Myocardial Infarction, and Myocardial Infarction itself – damage to the heart muscle. There are two major forms of Acute Coronary Syndrome: ACS with elevation of ST segment on ECG, which in most cases results in Myocardial Infarction, and ACS without elevation of ST segment on ECG, which can be either Myocardial Infarction or Unstable Angina.