Acute Coronary Care
At the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute's Center for Coronary Disease, patients with unstable angina (chest pain) and myocardial infarction (heart attacks) are cared for in the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) during the acute stages of their illness. Patients may be admitted from Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department or another Northwestern Memorial hospital bed, or transferred in from an outside hospital for specialized cardiac care in the CCU.
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. Dan J. Fintel, MD, medical director of the CCU, oversee the care that patients receive in the CCU. Dr. Fintel and associates collaborate with the interventional cardiologists in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and the team of cardiothoracic surgeons to ensure that the CCU patient receives the best care possible.
Because the first hours after a heart attack are critical, Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Emergency Department and CCU focus on early intervention for patients experiencing a possible heart attack. The primary goal of 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 the blood vessel, either emergently or soon after admission, 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.
During the recovery period, the CCU team initiates therapies for the management of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (also known as "secondary" prevention). Patients with a heart attack have a five-fold or greater risk for death or severe heart problems, according to the American Heart Association. They are more likely to suffer additional heart attacks, heart failure, strokes or sudden death. The Center for Coronary Disease is a national leader in developing programs to ensure that patients who have experienced unstable angina or a heart attack are consistently discharged with appropriate treatments that have been shown to save lives. The well-established CCU discharge program includes:
- Lipid (cholesterol) management
- Aggressive treatment of blood pressure
- Smoking cessation counseling
- Advice on heart-healthy nutrition
- Exercise guidelines and/or referral to outpatient Cardiac Rehabilitation
- The use of medicines such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, lipid-lowering agents and anti-platelet agents (such as aspirin and clopidogrel).
In addition, the CCU, in collaboration with the Emergency Department and Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, is participating in several clinical research trials that evaluate state-of-the-art treatments for patients with unstable angina, heart attack, and other acute heart problems.
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.