Heart Attack

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When a heart attack strikes, you need fast, expert treatment. Duke cardiologists use the latest diagnostic, medical, interventional, and surgical advances, including heart bypass surgery, to open blocked arteries, restore blood flow, minimize damage to your heart muscle, and increase your chances for survival. We also help you adopt and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle. Our goal is to help you improve your heart health and return you to your normal activities as soon as possible.

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Statins, antihypertensives, aspirin, and nitroglycerin may be recommended to help you lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, prevent blood clotting, and improve blood flow. All of these medications are aimed at improving your overall heart health and preventing your heart disease from progressing.

Angioplasty with Stenting


Stenting of the blood vessels helps re-establish blood flow to your heart. You may undergo this procedure if you are a candidate, based on how many of your blood vessels are affected and where the blockages are located. During angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a balloon-tipped catheter is inserted through a small incision in your wrist or groin and threaded through your body to reach the blocked coronary artery. The balloon is inflated to open the artery, and a metal mesh tube, called a stent, is placed inside the artery to re-establish blood flow. This minimally invasive procedure results in less pain, scarring, and blood loss and faster recovery when compared to surgery.

Heart Bypass Surgery


In heart bypass surgery, also known as coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, a surgeon uses a vein or blood vessel from your leg, arm, or under your chest wall to reroute blood flow around a blocked artery. Depending on your condition and anatomy, heart bypass surgery is performed through either a mid-chest incision or smaller left-chest incisions. The minimally invasive methods often result in smaller incisions, less blood loss, and faster recovery. In both surgical approaches, a heart-lung bypass machine, or pump, may be used to maintain blood flow through your body. Your surgeon will choose the procedure that is most appropriate for you.

Hybrid Surgery


If it’s appropriate for you, our interventional cardiologists and surgeons can work together in our hybrid operating room to combine percutaneous coronary intervention and surgical techniques. This approach may decrease recovery time.​

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Cardiac Tests

Blood Test


Measures the presence of proteins and enzymes that are released into the bloodstream when heart muscle cells are damaged during a heart attack.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)


Small electrodes are placed on your skin to record your heart’s electrical impulses. The tracings may help identify risk for or prior heart muscle damage. This test is performed by emergency medical teams prior to arrival at the hospital, when possible, to speed access to lifesaving treatment.​

Stress Test


A stress test is an ECG that’s performed while you walk on a treadmill or ride a bike, or when a chemical is used to stimulate your heart. A stress test is used to monitor changes in your heart’s function when it’s under stress that may indicate coronary artery disease.



An ultrasound probe is moved over the surface of your chest to capture moving images of your heart. This allows us to determine your heart’s chamber dimensions, shape, valve structures, and overall function.

Stress Echocardiogram


A stress echocardiogram is performed while you walk on a treadmill or ride a bike, or when a chemical is used to stimulate the heart. A stress echocardiogram is used to monitor changes in your heart’s function while it’s under stress that may indicate coronary artery disease.

3D Transesophogeal Echocardiogram


An ultrasound probe passed through your esophagus is used to capture sound waves that create highly detailed, close-up 3D images of your heart’s chamber dimensions, shape, valve structures, and overall function.

Cardiac Catheterization


Flexible catheters are guided through a blood vessel to your heart to look for blockages and overall heart function. Contrast dye is injected and X-rays are taken to capture images of your heart, coronary arteries, and other blood vessels.

CT Coronary Angiography


A contrast agent is injected into your arm and a CT scan produces highly detailed 3D images of your coronary arteries to help identify anatomy and blockages.

Cardiac MRI


Radio waves, magnets, and a computer create still and moving images of your overall heart structure, heart muscle function, blood vessels, and surrounding structures.

Single-Photon Emission Computerized Tomography (SPECT) Scan


3D images of your heart and arteries are created after a radioactive substance is injected into your blood vessels.

Nuclear Cardiac Testing


Radioactive dye is used during imaging to create pictures of blood flow through your heart. This test may be done at rest or with exercise. It helps to evaluate overall heart function.

Why Choose Duke

Leaders in Prompt Heart Attack Treatment
Duke was a key participant in developing a statewide program to ensure patients having a heart attack are evaluated quickly and treated promptly to minimize damage to their heart muscle. This nationally recognized RACE (Reperfusion of Acute Myocardial Infarction in Carolina Emergency Departments) Program has improved survival for people suffering from heart attacks. 

Nationally Recognized for Heart Attack Care
Duke University Hospital is recognized by the American Heart Association for cardiac care and for its role in improving and coordinating the quality of care for people who experience life-threatening heart attacks. Duke University Hospital was also named one of Healthgrade's top 100 best hospitals for cardiac care, recognizing "superior clinical outcomes" for heart attack treatment.

High-Volume Cardiac Catheterization Center
Our cardiologists perform more than 5,500 cardiac catheterizations each year, including interventional procedures. Our interventional cardiologists perform high volumes of interventional percutaneous coronary interventions -- the most effective immediate treatment for heart attack -- and stent placements to open blocked arteries.​

Heart Bypass Surgery for High-Risk Patients
We perform heart bypass surgery on high-risk patients, as well as on patients with complex conditions involving multiple blockages or blockages in difficult-to-reach locations. As a result, we offer procedures to people who have been declined at other centers.

More Surgical Options
Our surgeons perform routine and complex surgeries and offer minimally invasive techniques when appropriate. During coronary artery bypass, we use small incisions to obtain the veins needed, resulting in less scarring and faster recovery.

Access to Novel Therapies
As a Duke patient, you may be eligible to participate in clinical trials that test novel heart treatments and surgical techniques before they are widely available. 

Support for Your Recovery
Our cardiac prevention and rehabilitation program gives you the resources you need -- nutrition counseling, exercise instruction, stress management, smoking cessation programs, and more -- to overcome the impact of a heart attack, establish lifestyle changes, and maintain your heart health.

Best Heart Hospital in North Carolina

When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why our cardiology and heart surgery program is nationally ranked, and the highest-ranked program in North Carolina, according to U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

This page was medically reviewed on 11/22/2019