Treatment

Immediate treatment goals are to relieve pain and distress, improve blood flow, and restore heart function as quickly and as best as possible. Long-term treatment goals are to improve overall heart function, manage risk factors and lower the risk of a heart attack. A combination of drugs and surgical procedures may be used to meet these goals.

Medications

Depending on your diagnosis, medications for emergency care or ongoing management — and in some cases both — may include the following:

  • Thrombolytics, also called clot busters, help dissolve a blood clot that's blocking an artery.
  • Nitroglycerin improves blood circulation by temporarily widening blood vessels.
  • Antiplatelet drugs, which help prevent blood clots from forming, include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Effient) and others.
  • Beta blockers help relax your heart muscle and slow your heart rate, thereby decreasing the demand on your heart and lowering your blood pressure. These include metoprolol (Lopressor), nadolol (Corgard) and several others.
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors expand blood vessels and improve blood flow, allowing the heart to work more easily and efficiently. They include lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), benazepril (Lotensin) and several others.
  • Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), which help control blood pressure, include irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar) and several others.
  • Statins lower the amount of cholesterol circulating in the blood and may stabilize plaque deposits, making them less likely to rupture. Statins include atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor) and several others.

Surgery and other procedures

If medications aren't enough to restore blood flow to your heart muscles, your doctor may recommend one of these procedures:

  • Angioplasty and stenting. In this procedure, your doctor inserts a long, tiny tube (catheter) into the blocked or narrowed part of your artery. A wire with a deflated balloon is passed through the catheter to the narrowed area. The balloon is then inflated, opening the artery by compressing the plaque deposits against your artery walls. A mesh tube (stent) is usually left in the artery to help keep the artery open.
  • Coronary bypass surgery. With this procedure, a surgeon takes a piece of blood vessel (graft) from another part of your body and creates a new route for blood that goes around, or bypasses, a blocked coronary artery.