Heart Attack (Acute Myocardial Infarction)

A heart attack, also known as an acute myocardial infarction (acute MI) is a medical emergency that occurs when blood supplied to the heart is blocked, causing heart cells to die and damaging the heart muscle. Heart attacks are often caused by coronary artery disease, a condition in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, eventually blocking blood flow to the heart.

Immediate treatment is crucial during a heart attack, as more heart tissue loses oxygen and dies with each passing minute.

If you or someone you know may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Heart Attack Signs and Symptoms

While some heart attacks are "silent," occurring without any noticeable symptoms, most will have classic warning signs that include:

  • Sudden chest pain (typically relating to the left arm or left side of the neck)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

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Our Experience

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is the largest heart attack care provider in Northern Virginia. Our experienced heart doctors are known for their speed and expertise in treating heart attacks, and our success is demonstrated by the fact that we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the nation.

Read more about our qualifications below:

Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is the largest heart attack care provider in Northern Virginia. Each year we treat hundreds of patients with the most serious type of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI, which is caused by a completely blocked heart artery for the most acute cases, including AirCare helicopter transfers from other hospitals within a 200-mile radius in Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland.

At our flagship location, Inova Fairfax Hospital, we provide the highest level of emergency treatment available to heart attack patients in the region’s only Level 1 trauma center, equipped with the latest tools and technology, and staffed with an experienced, multidisciplinary team of physicians 24 hours a day.

Door-to-balloon time measures the amount of time it takes to open your blocked artery after you arrive at the hospital. National guidelines suggest a goal of 90 minutes from the time a patient arrives in the emergency room until receiving a procedure to open clogged arteries. Inova Schar Heart and Vascular consistently surpasses this standard with a door-to-balloon time of less than 60 minutes, which is 30 minutes quicker than national guidelines require.

We develop innovative programs to improve care for our patients.

  • We coordinate with local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our care by sending patient information directly from the ambulance to cardiac doctors waiting in the ER. That way we can have the resources needed, including immediate access to a Catheterization Lab, available upon arrival.
  • Inova Schar Heart and Vascular is among an elite group of hospitals in the nation to develop a method for cooling the body to prevent injury to the brain, called Arctic Sun.

Our five hospital-based heart clinics operate as one interconnected unit. No matter which one you enter, you will receive high-quality care or seamlessly be sent to a companion facility that can provide the treatment you need.

Cardiogenic shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the heart cannot function, depriving critical organs of the blood they need. This is a severe complication that may happen during a sudden cardiac event, such as a heart attack.

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Our CCU is staffed with full-time, dedicated cardiac doctors and nurses who care for heart attack patients needing continuous monitoring, including electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). EKGs provide crucial data about the electrical activity within the heart.

Emergency intervention for heart attacks is coordinated among many professionals including general cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and vascular surgeons. Our program’s success is repeatedly recognized for consistently high performance by both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology – the most trusted sources for outcomes-based, continuous quality improvement metrics for in-hospital clinical performance and process-of-care measures. These awards reflect the caliber of care provided by a highly collaborative team of physicians, nurses and technical staff – encompassing every aspect of care.

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