Acute Coronary Syndrome: Treatment

A person who may be having a heart attack is usually admitted to a hospital that has a cardiac care unit. There, doctors closely monitor his or her heart rhythm, blood pressure and blood-oxygen level so that heart damage can be assessed.

If no complications occur during the first few days, most people can soon safely leave the hospital. If you develop complications, such as abnormal heart rhythms or insufficient blood flow to or from the heart, hospitalization may be prolonged.

Treatment options for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) are often the same as for a full-blown heart attack:

  • Oxygen therapy
  • Antiplatelet drugs
  • Nitroglycerin for pain and discomfort
  • Anticoagulants or aspirin to prevent blood clotting
  • Beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors to help your heart muscles and arteries work better

Some people diagnosed with ACS will undergo an emergency percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a procedure that unblocks narrowed arteries without surgery. This procedure could involve a  balloon catheter angioplasty (insertion of a small balloon that pushes plaque to the sides of your artery) or the insertion of a stent (a mesh tube that prevents an artery from closing).

Mild depression and denial of the illness are very common in people diagnosed with ACS. Some people may require antidepressants. While “talk therapy” with a psychiatrist or psychologist is equally important, patients are also encouraged to talk about their feelings with their doctors, nurses, social workers, family members and friends.

Lifestyle changes
If you've been diagnosed with ACS, consider making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Control cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Exercise
  • Manage diabetes
  • Lose weight if needed

If your doctor prescribes medication or advises lifestyle changes, follow his or her instructions. Take your medications regularly and stay true to your treatment plan to achieve the best results.