What Happens At The Hospital?

When you arrive at the emergency department a nurse or physician will ask some questions about the symptoms that you are experiencing. A physical exam will be performed. You will be placed on a heart monitor so that your heart rhythm can be continuously observed. Frequently during a heart attack the heart’s electrical system is interrupted, and this can result in serious heart rhythm disturbances.

An intravenous catheter will be inserted into your arm. This provides access for the administration of fluids and medications. You may be given supplemental oxygen through the nose or mouth. This is necessary during a heart attack to deliver needed oxygen to the body.

A series of tests will be performed to help the physician in making the diagnosis of a heart attack (myocardial infarction). An electrocardiogram (EKG) can determine if the heart is being deprived of oxygen and if your are truly having a heart attack. At times the EKG appears normal even when a heart attack is occurring. Changes on the EKG may not be apparent for several days. For this reason, the physician may recommend admission to the hospital for continued observation.

Blood tests can provide important information about heart muscle damage during a heart attack. When heart muscle dies, an enzyme called creatinine phosphokinase (CPK) is released into the blood stream. A special form of CPK, which is found only in heart tissue, can be measured. Another chemical, which is becoming more widely used to diagnosis a heart attack is troponin T, also found only in cardiac muscle cells. These blood tests will usually be repeated every 8 hours for the first day or two following a heart attack. They provide useful information about the degree of damage and when the heart attack may have first occurred.

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