​Heart Attack

A heart attack can occur anytime - at work, while you are resting or in the middle of a strenuous workout. Heart attacks occur very suddenly, but the conditions leading up to an attack build up over many years. A heart attack occurs when blood flow is blocked due to build-up of fat, cholesterol and other substances which form plaque in the arteries. This can cause harm to the heart muscles and can prove to be fatal if not treated correctly and promptly. In order to ensure that the damage to the organs is minimum, the door to balloon time should be 90 minutes or less. This refers to the ​​​​amount​​ of time between a heart attack patient’s arrival at the hospital to the time they receive percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), such as angioplasty.

The heart attack causes a variety of symptoms and they may not be felt as pain. Common symptoms may include:

  • Chest, shoulder, back, jaw or upper abdominal discomfort

  • Sweating

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness

  • Dizziness and fainting 

  • Nausea and vomiting

​Symptoms of a heart attack can vary for different people. Some people suffer from severe pain, some show no signs and few may have a sudden cardiac arrest. However, the more the symptoms, the more likely you are having a heart attack.

Symptoms may occur at rest or exertion. Exertional symptoms which last less than twenty minutes are more likely to be angina, which is cardiac pain arising due to blockages in arteries but is of a less serious nature than a heart attack. 

If you are experiencing resting symptoms, it is advisable to visit the emergency room rather than the consulting clinic, to ensure that you receive prompt care from our highly trained team.

REMEMBER! Time is of essence; for a heart attack patient, every minute counts.

​If you or anyone near you is experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, immediately call for help and go to the hospital. The Heart, Lungs and Vascular Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital, are home to highly trained doctors that will give you the attention and care you need.   

It is important to contact a physician immediately to figure out the exact cause, rather than making an appointment as an outpatient. Your physician can help you avoid pain and unnecessary complications. It is advisable not to drive yourself to the hospital. If you need an ambulance call The Aga Khan University Hospital’s ​24/7 Emergency and Acute Care Services.​

​Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started. 


  • ​Diagnostic ECG (Electrocardiogram): A tool to measure the electrical function of the heart. The procedure will be used to test your heartbeat in order to detect unusual patterns which may indicate a heart attack.

  • Echocardiogram: A tool to measure the muscular functions of the heart. This can include Trans-thoracic echocardiography which is a non-invasive test that takes images of the heart through the chest.

  • ETT (Exercise Tolerance Test):  A test to determine the performance of the heart when exposed to stress induced by either exercise or drugs. 

  • Blood tests to check the existence of enzymes present in the bloodstream as a result of heart attack 

  • ​​Additional tests: These can include Chest X-Ray, Echocardiogram, Stress echocardiogram, Stress myocardial perfusion imaging, ​Coronary angiogram, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and CT (Computerized Tomography) scan.

With every passing minute after a heart attack, more heart tissues lose oxygen and dies. Hence, the best way to manage this is to restore blood flow quickly. Once in cardiac care, the heart attack patient will receive pain medication to counter the effects of the attack. These will include:

  • Pain relievers 

  • Drugs to prevent blood clots

  • Drugs to relieve stress on your heart 

After performing the required tests and subsequent analysis, the doctors may perform the following surgeries to repair damage done to your heart:

  • Coronary angioplasty: this involves insertion of a tube to an artery in your heart. The tube then removes blockages in the affected artery to restore blood flow to the heart.

  • Bypass surgery: in this surgery veins are stitched up ahead of blocked arteries so that blood to the heart can flow freely. 

Angina is treated in a similar way to heart attack but the urgency of treatment is much less and management more often centres on diagnostic tests and medications.

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.




The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.