If one of your coronary arteries becomes significantly blocked by plaque, it cuts off blood and oxygen to the heart muscle. The heart muscle begins to die, causing a heart attack (also known as a myocardial infarction).

The heart attack care teams at University of Missouri Health Care offer immediate, lifesaving treatment for heart attacks. From the moment you enter the door, it takes our team only 47 minutes on average to clear the blockage in your artery and stop the heart attack. We provide care much faster than the national goal of 90 minutes, saving more heart muscle — and lives.

Because of this, MU Health Care has earned the state of Missouri’s highest designation as a Level 1 STEMI center. STEMI stands for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a life-threatening type of heart attack caused by the complete blockage of a heart artery.

This blockage can cause some of the heart muscle to die from lack of nutrients and oxygen. Patients suffering from STEMI are also at a high risk of cardiac arrest. More than 250,000 Americans suffer this type of heart attack each year.

Heart attack symptoms

If you think you're having a heart attack, call 911.

Common warning signs of heart attacks in men include:

  • Chest discomfort or pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Chest pain that radiates to arm, neck, or jaw
  • Chest pain that causes shortness of breath
  • Chest pain that breaks you out in a cold sweat
  • Chest pain that coincides with nausea
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Heartburn

For women, symptoms can include:

  • Unusual fatigue that persists for several hours or several days
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Mild chest pain or discomfort
  • Chest pain that radiates through to the back
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Heartburn

Treating STEMI

Patients suffering from STEMI require fast reopening of the blocked heart artery.

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Illustration of a stent being placed

This is done through a procedure call Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, or PCI, which involves threading a catheter through an artery to the affected blood vessel. A balloon on the end of the catheter is used to place a stent (a fine metal mesh) to keep the blood vessel open. After the stent is placed it will be important for the patient to take medications to prevent the stent from clotting off again.

Time matters This treatment is most successful when done soon quickly after someone is brought to the emergency room.

The goal for centers across the country is to get patients suffering from this type of heart attack from the ER door to unblocking their artery in 90 minutes or less. MU Health Care’s team gets patients from the ER door to unblocking the artery in significantly less than 60 minutes.

Every second counts. If you think someone is having a heart attack, call 911 as soon as possible.

Treatment team

MU Health Care’s STEMI team consists of a wide range of caregivers including those in emergency medical services, emergency department, cardiac catheterization, cardiac intensive care and cardiac rehabilitation. Some of the other important components of Missouri’s Level I designation include:

  • Cardiac cath lab available 24/7
  • Cardiac surgeons available 24/7
  • Available to accept all STEMI patients 24/7 without diversion
  • Contribute to clinical outcomes registry