I was 10 when my grandfather suffered from his first heart attack. At 65, he underwent an angioplasty that gave him a second lease on life. A month or so after the incident, he was up and about without a care in the world. Of course, he had to take his medication, recovery was slow and he had to do regular check-ups with his doctor, but other than that, he was as fit as a fiddle till old age naturally caught up to him.
But my how heart attack treatment has changed! A few months ago, my 58-year-old uncle suffered a heart attack. As sudden as the incident was; just a few weeks later, with a new stent in his right coronary artery, he's back what he does best ... enjoying life!
These stories aren't about the incident itself though; they are an example of how improved heart attack treatment has given thousands, if not millions, a second chance at life. While heart disease is still a major health concern in this country, over the past 30 years technological advances have the potential to significantly decreased the mortality rate for people suffering from cardiovascular disease. From angioplasty to bypass surgery, new and improved, state-of-the-art treatment procedures have reduced the time spent in the hospital, the recovery time as well as the future need for surgery. This new technology is not only helping save lives, it is also helping reduce healthcare costs in the entire course of treatment by the shortening the length of stay at the hospital.
Treating Heart Attacks Without Skipping a Beat
The latest health tools are changing the monitoring and treatment of cardiac arrests. But with so many new advancements working to turn the beat around, it's good to know what to expect when you or someone you love needs it. Heart attack treatment is obviously a complex process, but this basic information will help brace you for any unfortunate circumstances that may arise.
Step 1: Medication
The main way to prevent heart damage during an attack is to restore blood flow quickly. When a heart attack is first detected and confirmed, your doctor may put you on medication to help unclog the arteries and restore blood flow to the heart. The level of blockage and extent of damage to the heart muscle will then determine the treatment your doctor recommends.
Step 2: Surgical Treatment
After performing some tests and understanding your condition, your doctor will decide if you require surgery. Depending on the extent and location of the blockage, your doctor may recommend a coronary angioplasty or coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG) — common procedures carried out for heart attacks.
Coronary angioplasty is a common procedure in treating blocked arteries. Your doctor will study the rate of your blood flow and the severity of your symptoms to decide if angioplasty is the right treatment for you. During coronary angioplasty, doctors insert a long, thin tube (catheter) through an artery, usually in your leg or groin. This catheter is equipped with a balloon that is inflated to open up blocked areas where blood flow to the heart has been reduced or cut off. This minimally invasive procedure is sometimes combined with the insertion of a stent to help keep the artery open and decrease the chance of a second blockage. The angioplasty recovery time is usually very short. You'll normally be able to leave the hospital the day after the surgery and you can resume normal activity in a week's time. But it's important to follow your doctor's instructions to continue to stay healthy.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is a procedure that helps improve blood flow to the heart. Surgeons sometimes use it as an alternative to treating people who can't have a coronary angioplasty for many technical reasons. During CABG, a healthy artery or vein from the body is grafted to the blocked coronary artery. The grafted artery or vein circumvents the blocked section of the coronary artery, creating a new path for blood to flow to the heart muscle. You'll need 6–12 weeks to fully recover from CABG. And when you've fully recovered, it's important to adopt a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk of developing further problems.
These are just the most common ways doctors treat a heart attack, but there are dozens of other procedures that are used depending on the extent of the damage. But thanks to new discoveries in technology, cardiac surgery has become less invasive and less risky in the last decade. There are thousands of Indians out there successfully managing a heart condition and leading a normal, active life. So we can all rest assured that our hearts are in good hands.