Heart attack treatments in Virginia
For patients experiencing a heart attack, HCA Virginia's hospitals provide comprehensive care from experienced emergency physicians, board-certified cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. Our heart teams will also ensure your ongoing recovery by creating individualized treatment plans that cater to your unique needs.
If you suspect someone is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
Accredited Chest Pain Centers
Many of our hospitals are also Accredited Chest Pain Centers. This designation means we meet or exceed the highest standards of care in treating heart attack patients. Specifically, these facilities:
- Integrate their emergency rooms (ERs) with local emergency medical services (EMS) teams
- Assess, diagnose and treat potential heart attack patients quickly
- Effectively treat patients with low risk for acute coronary syndrome
- Continually seek to improve processes and procedures
- Support community outreach and education about heart attacks
For more information about our primary care services or for help finding a doctor, call our free, 24/7 Consult-A-Nurse line.
What happens during a heart attack
A heart attack (myocardial infarction) occurs when blood flow to a part of the heart muscle becomes blocked. Buildups of cholesterol, fat and other substances can cause this blockage by forming plaque in the arteries, which are responsible for supplying blood to the heart. The plaque eventually forms a clot, which interrupts the blood flow and causes the tissues in the heart to lose oxygen and die.
The longer a heart attack goes untreated, the more likely it is to lead to permanent heart damage or even death. Immediate medical attention is critical for anyone suspected of having a heart attack.
Symptoms of a heart attack
Recognizing the signs of a heart attack could save your life or the life of someone else. If someone experiences the following heart attack symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
- Chest pain (angina) or discomfort—such as pressure, squeezing or fullness—that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back
- Cold sweats
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia)
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, your back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
- Squeezing or aching sensation in the chest or arms that may spread to back, neck or jaw
Heart attack symptoms in women
Similarly to men, the most common symptoms of a heart attack in women are chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to experience other common symptoms of heart attack, including:
- Back pain
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Burning sensation in the chest or upper abdomen
- Irregular heartbeat
- Jaw pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Reoccurring chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual fatigue or weakness
Because many of these symptoms are mild or may also occur with other conditions, women may be less likely to recognize them as signs of a heart attack. Consequently, they tend to wait longer before seeking life-saving emergency treatment.
Treating a heart attack
Our hospitals are specially staffed and equipped to treat heart attacks quickly and effectively. To do this, we use:
- Cardiac catheterization (cath) laboratories—Our cardiac cath labs are staffed 24/7 with specialists highly trained in opening blocked arteries faster than the American Heart Association's standard of 90 minutes.
- Critical and intensive care—Patients recover in our intensive care units (ICUs) and cardiac care units with constant monitoring and supervision.
- ER and EMS partnerships—Our emergency teams work closely with local medical providers to streamline heart attack care. This allows heart attack treatment to begin in the ambulance on the way to our hospitals. It also allows us to proactively assemble a cardiac team so we can begin treatment immediately upon your arrival.
- On-site rehabilitation services—Our physical therapy and rehabilitation programs help rebuild strength in the heart and body after a heart attack, especially if this event required heart surgery.
Healing after a heart attack
We offer cardiac rehabilitation with a multidisciplinary team—which includes nurses, exercise physiologists and dietitians. Together, they run our cardiac rehab programs, offering comprehensive education, risk identification, lifestyle modification and exercise therapy. This allows patients to successfully recover from a heart attack as well as manage related issues, such as heart failure or disease.