Saving hearts. Saving lives.

What is STEMI heart attack?
STEMI (ST segment elevation myocardial infarction) is a deadly type of heart attack that is caused by a prolonged blockage of blood supply in the heart. Every year, nearly 250,000 people experience STEMI heart attacks. These types of heart attacks carry a substantial risk of death and disability and require a quick response from all members of the medical team, from first responders in the community to cardiologists in the hospital.

Exceeding Guidelines Means Excellent Care for our Patients
McLaren Northern Michigan has taken part in initiatives to improve the care of heart attack patients in northern Michigan. Our care of heart attack and STEMI patients exceeds national standards and serves as a model for others.

McLaren Northern Michigan continues to exceed the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology’s national guidelines for the “first medical contact to balloon time” of 90 minutes, with a hospital goal of 60 minutes. This is the amount of time it takes for the patient to get from the emergency room door (when a patient transports himself/herself or when a patient calls EMS/911) to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab, and includes opening the blocked artery with balloons and stents.

Mission: Lifeline®
McLaren Northern Michigan participates in Mission: Lifeline®, and is proud to be one of only 25% of the hospitals in the United States equipped to receive and treat STEMI patients. Mission: Lifeline®, a project of the American Heart Association (AHA), is tackling heart attack care across the country. McLaren Northern Michigan has the equipment, expertise and facilities to administer percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a mechanical means of treating heart attack patients.

Patient Example: During and After Treatment of STEMI
Here is a fluoroscopy image of a patient's heart, which shows dark lines that represent blood filled arteries. Yellow circles have been added to the image to highlight the areas of importance.

On the left side
, the patient is suffering from a STEMI heart attack. You can see in the yellow highlighted circle the blockage which prevents the blood from flowing freely in the heart.

On the right side
, the patient has been treated for the STEMI with a stent implant, and the blood is flowing freely through the patient's arteries within the heart.

Common Symptoms of STEMI

The onset of symptoms is often gradual, occurs over several minutes, and is rarely instantaneous. Certain symptoms may occur and manifest as long as one month before an actual heart attack occurs. 
  • Chest pain (most commonly described as a sensation of tightness, pressure, and or squeezing - patients often say it feels like "an elephant is sitting on their chest")
  • Heart burn (pain can often mimic heart burn as it radiates most often to the left arm, but may also radiate to the lower jaw, neck, right arm, and back)
  • Excessive sweating
  • Weakness
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness
Contributing Factors
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Genetic pre-disposition
  • Poor lifestyle choices
  • Age group most commonly effected: 40-55 years
Women’s Symptoms May be Different
For women, chest pain may be a less noticeable condition as opposed to men’s symptoms. The most common symptoms of STEMI in women include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of sensation in fingertips
  • Abdominal pain
Important to Note
It is estimated that approximately one quarter of all myocardial infarctions are silent, without chest pain or other symptoms. A silent STEMI is more common in the elderly, in patients with diabetes, and after heart transplantation. In diabetics, differences in pain threshold, autonomic neuropathy, and psychological factors have been cited as possible explanations for the lack of symptoms.

The Emergency Department at McLaren Northern Michigan

What should you do if you suspect you are having a STEMI?
Timing is everything when treating STEMI, so fast emergency response is extremely important. 
  • Call 911
  • Let an ambulance take you to the hospital
It’s important that 911 is called as opposed to driving to an ED (emergency department). Utilizing EMS (emergency medical services) will significantly improve your chances for immediate treatment and survival, as resources are provided that can significantly improve your condition and most importantly, save your life.

The paramedics on the ambulance can determine if you are having a STEMI and they can deliver you to the proper hospital for treatment. EMS personnel take the victim’s vital signs and begin an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to determine where in the heart the damage has occurred. Our local EMS teams have systems in place that allow EKG reporting to be sent directly to McLaren Northern Michigan so that one of our cardiologists can begin assessing the patient’s condition before the patient arrives on-site.

The Cardiac Catheterization Lab at McLaren Northern Michigan

Paramedics are equipped and able to diagnosis a STEMI heart attack using the LifeNet system, which is a comprehensive platform that seamlessly mobilizes data to increase efficiency across the care continuum and deliver critical information at the speed hospital teams need to reduce time to treatment. This on-board, electronic, state of the art equipment and technology allows paramedics to perform EKG’s and instantly transmit the results directly to McLaren Northern Michigan.

If it is determined that a patient is in the midst of having a STEMI, while in transit the paramedics will coordinate with the hospital staff to prepare for the patient’s arrival. This includes making sure one of our interventional cardiologists are on-site (no matter what time of day or night) and the Cardiac Catheterization Lab is prepped and ready to treat as the patient arrives to the hospital. In serious cases, a clot-busting drug may be administered to the patient while in-route to extend time for the patient to be taken to surgery.

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