If you require emergency medical attention, please call 911 to access your local emergency services.


Heart Attack Treatments

Northwestern Medicine physicians communicate and consult with their peers to discuss cases and share best practices. Their experience and one-on-one, personalized attention is what makes Northwestern Medicine regional destinations for heart care.

If you are having a heart attack, these are the procedures you can expect to undergo:

In the Emergency Department

The goal of first responders is to relieve your pain, preserve your heart muscle and save your life. They may use:

  • Intravenous therapy: pain medication, such as nitroglycerin and morphine, to decrease your heart’s workload and oxygen demand
  • Oxygen therapy: To improve oxygenation to the damaged heart muscle
  • Cardiac medication: Beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers to promote blood flow to the heart, prevent arrhythmias, and decrease heart rate and blood pressure
  • Fibrinolytic therapy: Intravenous infusion of a medication that dissolves the blood clot, restoring blood flow
  • Antithrombin/antiplatelet therapy: To prevent further blood clotting
  • Antihyperlipidemics: Medications used to lower lipids (fats) in the blood, particularly Low Density Lipid (LDL) cholesterol, including statins, bile acid sequestrants and nicotinic acid

Emergent cardiac catheterization

Sometimes patients need to be moved to and treated for a blockage in the cath lab immediately. Your cardiology team may perform coronary angioplasty to restore coronary blood flow and prevent additional heart attacks. Also called percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), this interventional catheterization procedure creates a bigger opening in the blood vessel to increase blood flow into the heart.

A patient discharge program with proven results

The Northwestern Medicine Center for Coronary Disease is a national leader in developing discharge programs for patients who've had unstable angina or a heart attack. Our patients are consistently discharged with appropriate treatments that are proven to save lives. Our discharge program includes:

  • Lipid (cholesterol) management
  • Aggressive treatment of blood pressure
  • Counseling to quit smoking
  • Advice on heart-healthy nutrition
  • Exercise guidelines and/or referral to outpatient cardiac rehabilitation
  • Medicines, including beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, lipid-lowering agents and anti-platelet agents (such as aspirin and clopidogrel)


Patients with chest pain (unstable angina) and heart attacks (myocardial infarction) receive aggressive medical treatment from a team of cardiologists and affiliated medical specialists, medical residents, specially trained nurses, dietitians and social worker

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