The goal of treatment of heart attack is early diagnosis and to open up the blocked artery quickly and effectively to minimise the extent of damage to the heart muscle. Currently, there are two treatment options to unblock the artery. The fastest way to treat heart attack is to give a powerful blood thinning medication (thrombolytic agents) to dissolve the clot and therefore unblock the artery. Any qualified physician can give this immediately upon diagnosis of heart attack. However, it is only effective in slightly more than 50% in opening the blocked artery and may cause serious bleeding complications from other areas, including the brain.
A more effective way to unblock the artery is by inserting a balloon or stent through a small puncture in the groin or wrist to open up the artery, known as coronary angioplasty. It is successful in more than 90% of the cases. The disadvantage of this treatment is that the procedure needs to be performed in the procedure suite and requires experienced operators. There is also a delay in time in getting the whole angioplasty team in the hospital, especially after office hours. At the National Heart Centre Singapore, emergency angioplasty for patients who are admitted for heart attack is available round the clock.
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