ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries, which provides oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle, is blocked. ST-segment elevation is an abnormality detected on the 12-lead ECG (electrocardiogram). Patients experiencing acute STEMI are at risk for developing life-threatening arrhythmias, like ventricular fibrillation, which causes sudden cardiac arrest—sometimes referred to as a “massive heart attack.”
STEMI can be treated with clot-busting drugs called thrombolytics (also called fibrinolytics) or with a primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in a cardiac catheterization lab—also known as angioplasty or stenting.
One of the quality measures for STEMI care is the “door-to-balloon” time, or the amount of time it takes to successfully re-open the occluded (or blocked) artery. The clock starts when the patient arrives at the hospital and stops when the balloon is inflated in the cardiac cath lab.