Are you having a heart attack or an acute heart attack? Is there even a difference? This lesson goes over the terminology and basic pathophysiology of an acute heart attack.
Don’t you love it when there’s a bunch of ways to describe the same thing? We can call a dog a dog, a canine, Canis familiaris, or even Canis lupus familiaris. For all intents and purposes, we’re referring to the same thing, your best friend (if you have a dog, that is).
Just like we can mishmash a bunch of terms together to describe a dog, we can also do so for a heart attack. So don’t be surprised if you don’t know what an acute heart attack is because I’m pretty sure you know exactly what it is, just by another name.
So, what’s an acute heart attack? It is just a less technical way of saying acute myocardial infarction which is a more technical way of saying myocardial infarction. And what do all of these three terms refer to? A heart attack. Yep, just like for a dog, we’re really talking about the same thing just with different terms. I told you that you already know what an acute heart attack is!Let’s figure out then, why all this different terminology.
A heart attack is the simple term for all of this. Why add ‘acute’ to the beginning of that? Acute isn’t a word that describe how cute this condition is. Because it’s not.
Acute is a word that refers to a condition that has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Sudden and/or rapid in onset; it comes out of nowhere or it progresses very rapidly.
- Of brief duration. Meaning, it doesn’t last for weeks or months at a time.
- Severe in nature. So, it’s not a pleasant experience or it causes severe damage to a part of the body, even if there is no pain.
One term down, two more to go. What does myocardial mean? Myo- means muscle and cardio- refers to the heart. So, myocardial means heart muscle.
Infarction refers to an infarct, which is a small area of a piece of tissue that has died as a result of an inadequate supply of oxygenated blood.Now, let’s put it all together. Heart attack is the common term for a myocardial infarction and an acute heart attack is the less technical term for an acute myocardial infarction. Given all of the above, an acute myocardial infarction tells us that there has been a sudden and severe event that is of relatively brief duration, involving the death of a local segment of heart muscle as a result of oxygen depletion. Guess what? That’s exactly what happens during an acute heart attack.
Now a bit more about that. You now know the basics of a heart attack.
But let’s just go into a bit more of what actually happens. Your heart muscle is supplied with oxygenated blood thanks to blood vessels called coronary arteries. It is here that plaque, a waxy/fatty substance, can build up and obstruct the blood flow. Sometimes, this plaque can rupture.
This will cause a blood clot to form. The blood clot will then obstruct the coronary arteries. In other instance, the coronary arteries will spasm, causing the coronary arteries to squeeze or constrict. This narrowing of the coronary arteries will block the blood flow to a section of heart muscle.Any of these, plaque, a blood clot, spasm, or a combination of them all at once, can contribute to a heart attack.
Once the coronary artery is blocked off for a long enough period of time, the heart muscle downstream from the blockage stops receiving oxygen because it’s no longer receiving any blood. Since blood carries oxygen, no blood means no oxygen. The heart muscle segment begins to cry out for oxygen. Since it doesn’t get any, it suffocates and dies and that’s what we call an acute heart attack.
An acute heart attack is just another term for an acute myocardial infarction, which is the longer name for a myocardial infarction, which is the technical term for a heart attack.A heart attack is an event that is sudden and/or rapid in onset, severe, and of relatively brief duration that results in the death of a segment of heart muscle as a result of prolonged oxygen deprivation.
The oxygen deprivation stems from a blocked blood vessel. The blockage most commonly occurs due to plaque, a blood clot, or both. There are other potential reasons a coronary artery can become blocked, including a spasm. This is where the coronary artery narrows on its own, reducing or stopping blood flow to a section of heart muscle.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.