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Why STEMI heart attacks are so deadly

Unlike skin or hair, once heart muscle is damaged, it will never grow back.

All heart attacks are serious, but one type of is the most dangerous of all and it’s known as a STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction).

“What [STEMI] means is a really bad heart attack, where a major artery to the heart is completely blocked,” explains Sasidhar Guthikonda, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital.  

Some heart attacks result from an 80 to 90 percent artery blockage, while STEMI means the artery is 100 percent blocked.

Why STEMI is so deadly

“The major reason why patients die from a STEMI or a major heart attack is because of a cardiac arrest,” says Dr. Guthikonda.

The biggest risk for cardiac arrest and muscle damage is within the first few hours after a vessels closes up. Research suggests that if the vessel is opened up within the first few hours of the blockage, the patient will have a better chance of survival and less muscle damage. 

“The heart muscle is interesting – it doesn’t regrow or regenerate like skin or hair,” he says. “Once it’s damaged, there is no way of bringing it back. It’s very important that we open up [the vessel] and get the circulation going as soon as possible.”

How Piedmont treats STEMI heart attacks

Piedmont Atlanta, Piedmont Fayette and Piedmont Henry are all equipped to treat patients with STEMI heart attacks. These hospitals have an average door-to-balloon time of 60 minutes, well below the national average of 90 minutes. It is important for patients to go to a hospital with a cardiac catheterization lab so their artery can be opened up right away with a coronary angioplasty. During the non-surgical procedure, a cardiologist uses a catheter to insert a deflated balloon in to the blocked artery. The balloon is then inflated, which allows blood to flow through the artery again.

The bottom line is that STEMI heart attacks are always life-threatening and require quick assessment and treatment. Piedmont’s Heart Network quickly connects hospitals and healthcare providers throughout North Georgia to make sure STEMI patients receive priority care.  

To learn more about heart attack treatment, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.  

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