STEMI heart attack signs, symptoms, treatment, and medical malpractice

Having a heart attack is something that everyone fears.

As it turns out, there are various different types of heart attacks, also called myocardial infarctions or MIs. One type in particular, though, especially worries physicians and even cardiologists (heart specialists). It’s called the ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI.

The front-line tool that physicians use to check cardiac function is the 12-lead EKG (or ECG). For this noninvasive, painless test, a doctor or nurse places 12 different wired electrical leads in certain positions on the patient’s body. The leads are connected to an electrocardiograph machine, which generates a heart tracing that shows electrical activity that’s computed from 12 different electrical positions of the heart.

The different parts of the EKG tracing are named after different letters of the alphabet ranging from P to T. Cardiologists and electrophysiologists (medical specialists in heart rhythm) analyze the EKG tracing to look for things like the PR interval, PR segment, QRS interval, ST segment, QT interval, TP segment, RR interval, and, of course, the dreaded ST elevation.

To interpret an EKG, the physician needs to establish a baseline, meaning the normal electrical pattern of the patient’s heart. As the name suggests, an ST elevation on an EKG is when the ST segment is abnormally high above the patient’s baseline.

A real, verified ST elevation above the baseline is a show-stopper that indicates that a person is experiencing an acute heart attack or ischemia (lack of blood flow and oxygen) to heart tissue. When I asked an anesthesiologist about this serious condition at a deposition, she testified that a verified ST elevation means that it’s time to stop a surgery and send the patient to a cardiac catheterization lab for a full cardiac workup.

STEMI heart attacks are dangerous and life-threatening emergencies because they put patients at a higher risk of developing a heart rhythm pattern called ventricular fibrillation, which can progress in a short period of time into sudden cardiac arrest.

The classic signs and symptoms of an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction include:

• Unusual chest pain or discomfort

• Shortness of breath

• Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

• Feeling sweaty

Typical treatments for STEMI include administering the clot-busting medication tPA, because the condition is often related to atherosclerosis, as well as cardiac catheterization. According to the American Heart Association’s current guidelines, hospitals treating STEMI patients should have staffing, equipment, and procedures in place to achieve a door-to-balloon time of 90 minutes or less—this means 90 minutes from the first medical contact until the patient is in the hospital cardiac cath lab having a procedure to balloon open the blocked coronary artery.

When physicians and hospitals don’t comply with the standard of care for managing STEMI heart attacks, the result for patients is frequently death. If you’ve experienced this on the part of a family member, then contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.