What to Expect after a Heart Attack
What is a Heart Attack?
A heart attack is a myocardial infarction (MI). It occurs when there is a blockage in one or more arteries in the heart. If there is a complete (100%) blockage, it is called a ST elevation MI (STEMI). If there is a partial blockage, it is called a non-ST elevation MI (NSTEMI). When an artery has blockage, the heart does not get enough blood and oxygen. This results in damage to the heart muscle if blood flow is not restored quickly.
What to Expect in the Hospital
Once in the hospital, you can expect to be taken to the Cardiac Cath Lab. A doctor will place a catheter (special tube) in an artery in your groin. The doctor will use the catheter to try to open the blocked artery. If possible, the doctor will place a stent in the artery to keep it open. This procedure may take one to two hours.
After this procedure, you will be taken to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). The nurses who work in the ICU have special training in cardiac (heart) care. Your nurses will talk with you about staying in bed and keeping your leg straight. Patients who have this procedure need to stay in bed with their legs straight for a number of hours. This helps to prevent bleeding at the groin site and other problems.
Your nurses will work with you to prevent and watch for any problems. They will check your groin site for bleeding. They will check your foot for good blood flow. Your nurses will tell you when you may get up. The type and amount of medicines you have had will also affect when you may get up.
You will have tests done. These tests will include lab work, an electrocardiogram (ECG), and a chest x-ray (CXR). One of the lab tests will check for the amount of troponin in your blood. Troponin is normally in your heart muscle. It leaks into your blood when your heart muscle is damaged. The more troponin in your blood, the more damage your heart muscle has. This lab test is done every six hours until the amount of troponin in your blood peaks.
Your family may visit when you are settled in your room. If you have any valuable items such as watches, jewelry, credit cards, or money, it is suggested that your family take these home.
You can expect to stay in the ICU for 24 hours after you arrive. You will then be taken to the cardiac general care unit on F4/5. The nurses on F4/5 also have special training in cardiac care. You can expect to stay in the hospital for 72 hours or three days after being admitted. This is to watch for any complications.
What to Expect during Discharge from the Hospital
How long you stay in the hospital will depend on how you are doing. Your doctor will talk with you about how long you need to stay. Your nurse will talk with you about your discharge instructions on the day you leave. Your instructions will include information about appointments that you need. Some may be made for you and some you may need to make. The phone numbers you need will be in the discharge information.
The pharmacist will give you a list of the medicines that you will be taking when you leave. He will review each medicine with you. He will also answer any questions you or your family have.
When the discharge work is done, a nurse or nurse’s aide will help you get to your car. Please arrange for someone to be at the hospital ready to drive you home.
What to Expect out of the Hospital
Rest is vital for good healing. Your doctor will talk with you about when you can return to work. He will also talk with you about new guidelines for your activity and diet. You will most likely follow a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and does not have caffeine or added salt. Dieticians are available to help you make these changes. They can offer ideas for food choices.
If you are a smoker, it is very important that you quit smoking. If you need help quitting, please ask your nurse or doctor. There are many ways that they can help.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/16/2011
Copyright © 09/16/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7254
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