Heart Attack Emergency Care

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Underlying heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States – causes heart attacks. 

At Virginia Mason, each of our Emergency Department doctors is board-certified in emergency medicine, and our doctors and emergency room nurses are certified in Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support and Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Signs of heart attack
Heart Attack Care in the Emergency Department at Virginia Mason
Why Virginia Mason?

Emergency Department Nurse

Signs of heart attack

The most common warning symptoms of a heart attack involve chest pain or discomfort in the center or left side of the chest or in other parts of the upper body. Shortness of breath may occur with these symptoms or be the only symptom.

Chest pain or discomfort can feel like:

  • Pressure
  • Squeezing
  • Fullness
  • Mild or severe heartburn or indigestion

Symptoms may include pain or discomfort in:

  • One or both arms
  • Back or shoulders
  • Neck or jaw button

Women may feel these symptoms more subtly than men, and may have other symptoms including shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Heart Attack Care in the Emergency Department at Virginia Mason

People who are having heart attacks often arrive by ambulance. But the Emergency Department team swings into action on the way to the hospital.

While en route, paramedics do EKGs in the ambulance and send the information ahead to the Emergency Department. A cardiac catheterization lab is prepared, and the interventional cardiology team is assembled.

Upon arrival in the Emergency Department, heart attack patients are quickly evaluated. If appropriate, they are taken to the catheterization lab within 10 minutes of diagnosis.

An angiogram helps determine the location and extent of the damage. Depending on a patient’s need, a stent can be guided into the heart, or angioplasty can be done immediately to restore blood flow to the heart.

Why Virginia Mason?

Cardiologists at Virginia Mason work closely with the highly-trained team in the Emergency Department. This allows for a seamless experience from arrival in the Emergency Department all the way through follow-up care.

Our heart specialists are recognized nationally in the treatment of heart attacks, and our heart surgery outcomes are in the top 10 percent in the nation.


Health Grades 2016 5-Star Award - Heart Attack Treatment
Health Grades 2016 5-Star Award - Heart Failure Treatment
2015 Platinum Award Action Registry
2019 Platinum Award Chest Pain
3-Star Award Society of Thoracic Surgeons
AHA Mission: Lifeline