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INTRODUCTION

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Acute myocardial infarction (AMI) is one of the most common diagnoses in hospitalized patients in industrialized countries. In the United States, approximately 525,000 patients experience a new AMI, and 190,000 experience a recurrent AMI each year. More than half of AMI-related deaths occur before the stricken individual reaches the hospital. The in-hospital mortality rate after admission for AMI has declined from 10% to about 6% over the past decade. The 1-year mortality rate after AMI is about 15%. Mortality is approximately fourfold higher in elderly patients (over age 75) as compared with younger patients.

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When patients with prolonged ischemic discomfort at rest are first seen, the working clinical diagnosis is that they are suffering from an acute coronary syndrome (Fig. 295-1). The 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) is a pivotal diagnostic and triage tool because it is at the center of the decision pathway for management; it permits distinction of those patients presenting with ST-segment elevation from those presenting without ST-segment elevation. Serum cardiac biomarkers are obtained to distinguish unstable angina (UA) from non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and to assess the magnitude of an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). This chapter focuses on the evaluation and management of patients with STEMI, while Chap. 294 discusses UA/NSTEMI.

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FIGURE 295-1

Acute coronary syndromes. Following disruption of a vulnerable plaque, patients experience ischemic discomfort resulting from a reduction of flow through the affected epicardial coronary artery. The flow reduction may be caused by a completely occlusive thrombus (right) or subtotally occlusive thrombus (left). Patients with ischemic discomfort may present with or without ST-segment elevation. Of patients with ST-segment elevation, the majority (wide red arrow) ultimately develop a Q wave on the ECG (Qw MI), while a minority (thin red arrow) do not develop Q wave and, in older literature, were said to have sustained a non-Q-wave MI (NQMI). Patients who present without ST-segment elevation are suffering from either unstable angina or a non-ST-segment elevation MI (NSTEMI) (wide green arrows), a distinction that is ultimately made based on the presence or absence of a serum cardiac marker such as CK-MB or a cardiac troponin detected in the blood. The majority of patients presenting with NSTEMI do not develop a Q wave on the ECG; a minority develop a Qw MI (thin green arrow). Dx, diagnosis; ECG, electrocardiogram; MI, myocardial infarction. (Adapted from CW Hamm et al: Lancet 358:1533, 2001, and MJ Davies: Heart 83:361, 2000; with permission from the BMJ Publishing Group.)

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PATHOPHYSIOLOGY: ROLE OF ACUTE PLAQUE RUPTURE

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STEMI usually occurs when coronary blood flow decreases abruptly after a thrombotic occlusion of a coronary artery previously affected by atherosclerosis. Slowly developing, high-grade coronary artery stenoses do not typically precipitate STEMI because of the development of a rich ...

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