Acute Coronary Syndrome

What is it?

Acute coronary syndrome is a set of symptoms that is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. The most common symptom is chest pain.

Acute coronary syndrome may be caused by unstable angina or by a heart attack. It should be treated immediately.

If you have any sudden or unexplained chest pain, call 911.

What are the symptoms?

Patients with acute coronary syndrome will not all experience the same symptoms. Also, men and women may not experience the same symptoms.

The following are the most common symptoms acute coronary syndrome:

  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure
  • Pain in the left arm or left side of the jaw
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Heartburn or abdominal pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Clammy skin

How is it treated?

The treatments for acute coronary syndrome vary depending on what is causing your symptoms. Doctors in the emergency department may perform several tests, including blood tests and an electrocardiogram.

Medication. Various medications such as aspirin, nitroglycerin and thrombolytics ("clot-busters") can be used to improve blood flow to your heart.

Angioplasty and stent placement. A thin catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in your thigh and threaded up to the blocked artery. A tiny balloon is then used to open up the blockage. A stent—a miniature wire tube—is then placed in the blood vessel to hold it open and allow blood to flow normally.

Coronary artery bypass surgery. In this surgery, a blood vessel is taken from another part of your body and used to go around—or bypass—the blocked coronary artery. This surgery is often called "open heart surgery". Coronary artery bypass surgery is often used for more severe blockages.

What is URMC's approach?

The most important factor in the treatment of acute coronary syndrome is providing the appropriate treatment quickly.

At URMC, we have analyzed and refined our whole process to minimize the time to treatment. Our Heart Attack Team is on standby 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

We also have advanced procedures to help patients who suffer severe heart attacks. We are one of the few heart centers in the country with the ability to use temporary heart pumps to help a patient's heart through the period of most intense shock.

Who should I contact?

If you have chest pain or other symptoms of acute coronary syndrome, call 911.

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