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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Acute Coronary Care

At the Center for Coronary Disease, patients with chest pain (unstable angina) and heart attacks (myocardial infarction) are cared for in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) during the acute (critical) stages of their illness.

Patients may be admitted from Northwestern Memorial’s emergency department or from another Northwestern Memorial hospital bed. We also accept transfers of patients from outside hospitals. Our team of heart specialists works with referring medical providers to ensure the best patient outcomes. In fact, Northwestern Memorial consistently matches or beats national averages for positive patient outcomes.

Team approach to acute coronary care

In the CCU, patients receive aggressive medical treatment from a team of cardiologists and affiliated medical specialists, medical residents, specially trained nurses, dietitians and social workers.
James D. Flaherty, MD, medical director of the CCU, oversees our team and guides patient care. Dr. Flaherty and the acute coronary care team collaborate with interventional cardiologists that offer cardiac catheterization, along with our expert team of cardiothoracic surgeons, to ensure that all CCU patients receive the best care possible.

Focus on early intervention

The first hours after a heart attack are critical. To minimize damage and improve a patient’s chance for recovery, the staff of Northwestern Memorial’s emergency department and CCU focus on early intervention for patients experiencing a possible heart attack. Our primary treatment is to evaluate the severity of the heart problem and institute measures to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.
Early treatments include:
  • Continuous cardiac monitoring for life-threatening heart rhythms
  • Treatment to stabilize blood pressure and heart rate
  • Intervention to open a narrowed or blocked blood vessel
  • Admission to the hospital, depending on the type of heart attack or chest pain symptoms
  • Medications, such as anti-platelet medicines, to prevent the blood clot inside the coronary artery from increasing in size
  • Percutaneous assist devices for patients in cardiogenic shock, including intra-aortic balloon pumps and the Impella left ventricular assist device

Treatment during recovery from a heart attack

While a patient is recovering from a heart attack, the CCU team uses therapies to manage risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (also known as “secondary” prevention).
Patients who have had a heart attack are five times more likely to experience additional severe heart problems or death, according to the American Heart Association. They are more likely to suffer additional heart attacks, heart failure, strokes or sudden death.

A patient discharge program with proven results

The Center for Coronary Disease is a national leader in developing discharge programs for patients who have had unstable angina or a heart attack. Our patients are consistently discharged with appropriate treatments that are proven to save lives. Our CCU discharge program includes:
In addition, the CCU, in collaboration with the emergency department and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, participates in clinical research trials that evaluate state-of-the-art treatments for patients with unstable angina, heart attack and other acute heart problems. It’s our goal to always be at the forefront of treating patients with acute coronary illness.

Contact Us Today

For more information about acute coronary care, please call the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online

Clinical Trials

For more information regarding clinical trials related to coronary disease, please view the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern page, send an email or call 312-926-4000.

Last UpdateJuly 3, 2013