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Dissecting a STEMI: May 4, 2014

It is one of the deadliest forms of heart attack- what health professionals call a STEMI. It stands for an ST segment elevation myocardial infarction.

“Every heart attack is not ST elevation myocardial. STEMI implies a full thickness heart attack. And most of the time a major blood vessel is closed,” explains Dr. Subhash Kshetrapal, a cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.

This type of heart attack requires immediate emergency surgery to restore blood flow. In Lee County, EMS workers are equipped to transmit an EKG reading en route to the ER, so doctors can be ready and waiting.

“Once they are in the hospital and we have monitored their heart rhythm we are immediately able to treat them,” Dr. Kshetrapal says.

To re-open the clogged artery, surgeons perform an angioplasty- inserting a catheter into the artery then deploying a balloon to push open the blockage. Many times a stent is put into to keep it open. Nationwide the standard is to get a STEMI patient from door to balloon within 90 minutes.

“The shorter the time, the better off you are because time is muscle. Every minute counts. A minute delay means more myocardium at risk, the more heart muscle your losing because you’re not re-establishing blood flow to that area. “

A STEMI heart attack carries little warning. Symptoms may include chest pains, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating or palpitations.

“A heart attack is not a common event, but as we get older it gets more common and people who have more risk factors are more prone to have myocardial infarction heart attacks,” Dr. Kshetrapal says.

The bottom line is to read the warning signs and always take them seriously by calling 911 if you suspect a heart attack.