ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI)

What is STEMI?

ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) is a type of acute myocardial infarction (AMI or heart attack) that is caused by a complete obstruction of blood flow to the heart. In STEMI, the obstructing thrombus blocks the coronary artery, preventing blood from reaching the myocardial tissue and thereby leading to irreversible and severe damage to the heart muscle. STEMI is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention for the best possible outcome.

Symptoms of STEMI

The most common signs and symptoms of a STEMI are chest pain, pressure, squeezing, or tightness that may radiate to the jaw, neck, arms, or back. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, and sweating. Symptoms can vary from person to person and some may experience no symptoms at all – making it difficult to diagnose.

Diagnosis of STEMI

The definitive diagnosis of STEMI is made by electrocardiogram (ECG). The ECG should be done as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms to determine the extent of the heart attack. The ECG demonstrates ST segment elevation, a novel sign associated with STEMI.

Treatments for STEMI

Treatment for STEMI includes:

  • Cardiac catheterization and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) – the use of stents to open the blocked artery.
  • Administration of anticoagulants (blood thinners) and anti-ischemic medication to preserve circulation to the heart and lower the risk of further damage.
  • Oxygen therapy and medications to reduce the heart rate.
  • Monitoring of ECG during the entire course of treatment and throughout hospitalization.
  • Counseling and lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of recurrent STEMI.

Prevention of STEMI

Although there is no sure way to prevent a STEMI, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of having a heart attack. These include:

  • Regular exercise.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Eating a healthy diet.
  • Quitting (or never starting) smoking.
  • Managing preexisting medical conditions (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol).