Heart attacks are surprisingly common, impacting someone in the US every 40 seconds. They cause scary symptoms, ranging from chest pain and jaw aching to cold sweat and nausea. In fact, the only good thing about heart attacks is that they’re treatable. But they aren’t the only life-threatening cardiac event.

Sudden cardiac arrest, while it may not be as common as heart attacks, is extremely dangerous and requires emergency care. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating and therefore is not circulating any blood throughout the body.

In the event of a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest, early recognition of symptoms, bystander intervention with CPR and/or calling 9-1-1 is crucial. If you are brought to the Emergency Department of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), a multi-disciplinary team, including the interventional cardiologists of Georgia Heart Institute, utilizes advanced processes and cutting-edge technology to provide the highest level of life-saving care.

What sets Georgia Heart Institute apart?

When it comes to heart attack or cardiac arrest, getting the right care, at the right place, at the right time can make all the difference. That’s why Georgia Heart Institute utilizes one of the most innovative approaches to care that begins before a patient ever arrives at the hospital.

STEMI System

The Northeast Georgia Regional STEMI System is a collaboration between NGMC’s Emergency Rooms and Cardiac Catheterization Labs, along with hospitals throughout the region and EMS departments across 18 counties. Together, these clinical experts work together to coordinate effective treatment for heart attack as quickly as possible.

Learn more about our streamlined STEMI System.

Trusted Care When It Matters Most

Every team that’s involved treating a life-threatening cardiac event – from the Emergency Department and Cardiac Imaging to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab teams – are attuned to working together to deliver streamlined care in high pressure, urgent situations.

With a high volume of emergency cardiac cases, the interventional cardiologists of Georgia Heart Institute are actively involved in administering life-saving treatment for cardiac arrest and heart attacks. Their extensive and timely experience means they are up-to-date on all the most advanced approaches to emergent cardiac intervention and they deliver the best possible care as quickly and safely as possible.

The processes, equipment and expertise at NGMC and Georgia Heart Institute not only ensure the best possible care outcomes, it’s also what led NGMC hospitals to be designated as the state’s first Emergency Cardiac Care Centers.

Learn more about what this designation means for your care.

Advanced Technology & Services

By utilizing state-of-the-art technology, devices and equipment, our emergency cardiac care teams are able to work at the highest level – and provide the most precise and effective treatment.

Even after life-saving intervention, the recovery process is just as important in helping the body to heal and rest after a serious cardiac event. We offer all the latest support devices and therapies available to support a healthy recovery and positive long-term health outcomes.

As a part of their care journey, patients who experienced a cardiac arrest or heart attack may receive specialized care in the Ronnie Green Heart Center, NGMC’s cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU).

Emergency Cardiac Conditions We Treat

As an Emergency Cardiac Care Center, we are equipped to diagnose and treat the full-range of emergency cardiac diseases, no matter how complex. This includes:

Cardiac Arrest

As the result of a problem with the heart’s electrical system, cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating, which means none of the vital organs, including the brain, are getting blood and oxygen. This abrupt stop to the heart’s function causes the individual to cease breathing and to become unconscious. Without immediate intervention using CPR and/or defibrillation with an AED, cardiac arrest is life threatening. Any bystanders of cardiac arrest should call 9-1-1.

Cardiogenic Shock

This condition occurs when the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet the demands of the body. Cardiogenic shock is often the result of damage to one of the heart’s main pumping chambers, the ventricles, weakening the heart and limiting its ability to fully function. If can be caused by a serious heart attack (STEMI), as well as other conditions.

Heart Attack

When there is plaque build-up in the blood vessels that supply the heart with oxygen and blood, this is known as coronary artery disease. Overtime, plaque can become extensive and severe, eventually causing it to rupture. As a result, a blood clot is formed, which restricts blood flow to the heart. A heart attack can cause damage to the heart muscle, which is why immediate intervention is needed. In some cases, heart attacks can be severe enough to make the heart stop beating (cardiac arrest).

Learn more about the key differences between cardiac arrest & heart attack.

Emergency Cardiac Care Services

Whenever a life-threatening cardiac event occurs, our entire multi-disciplinary team stands ready – 24/7 – to provide exceptional cardiac care. We provide the following advanced services to ensure the best health outcomes:

Interventional Cardiology

With state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization labs in Braselton and Gainesville, our interventional cardiology teams are always ready to provide effective, life-saving procedures. From life-saving angioplasty to complex percutaneous interventions and more, we offer the full range of catheter-based cardiac services.

Learn more about our excellence in interventional cardiology.

Heart Support Devices

Following a severe cardiac event, the heart may need additional support to meet the needs of the body as it heals and continues regaining its full function. There are several therapeutic devices that may be temporarily used to supplement the heart and restore blood flow throughout the body, including:

  • Intra-Aortic Balloon Pump (IABP): Using catheter-based technology, the intra-aortic balloon pump is guided and placed in the aorta. Once there, it uses a computer-regulated balloon that inflates as your heart relaxes to improve blood flow in and out of the heart.
  • Impella Heart Pump: This device is used during an interventional procedure and is guided into the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart. It works by pumping blood from the ventricle and into the aorta, the body’s main artery, to circulate blood throughout the body. The Impella device does the work of the heart, allowing it to rest while the intervention is being performed.
  • ECMO: Also known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, ECMO is a device that does the work of the heart and lungs by oxygenating blood and circulating it throughout the body. It’s typically used after a serious cardiac event or procedure where additional time is needed for your heart and lungs to rest and heal. Learn more about ECMO at Georgia Heart Institute.
Therapeutic Hypothermia

Following cardiac arrest, therapeutic hypothermia may be used to limit blood flow to the brain, allowing it to heal and prevent damage. Ongoing analysis of therapeutic hypothermia shows promising outcomes for patients, both in overall wellness and improved neurologic function. This service is administered once patients arrive at the hospital. Using special cooling technology, a cardiac arrest patient’s core body temperature is carefully lowered and maintained for approximately 24 hours.


How do you identify a heart attack or cardiac arrest?

Not all heart attacks cause symptoms; however, if you personally experience or notice someone complaining of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 and seek emergency care:

  • Chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Pain in other parts of the body such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or abdomen
  • Shortness of breath

Unlike heart attacks, cardiac arrest symptoms are extremely sudden and severe – typically the first sign is a loss of consciousness, followed by ineffective or absent breathing. Patients may also begin to turn purple. Sometimes, before an individual loses consciousness, they may experience a racing heartbeat, dizziness or lightheadedness, chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting.

Learn the key details about cardiac arrest & heart attack.

What should I do if I see an emergency cardiac event?

While you may not have formal medical training, it’s important that everyone know the signs and symptoms of life-threatening conditions, including cardiac arrest, heart attack and stroke. For many of these conditions, early intervention can make a huge impact on survival rate and care outcomes. In the case of cardiac arrest, early intervention includes CPR and early defibrillation with an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). There are many public places that have AED devices onsite, quickly asses the area and if one is located, follow the instructions for use as quickly as possible. However, for stroke and heart attack, early intervention means calling 9-1-1 and getting Emergency Medical Services onsite as quickly as possible.

While you may be tempted to drive yourself or another individual to the Emergency Department for care, it’s best to rely on EMS because these experts have been highly-trained to effectively respond to, assess and treat life-threatening medical conditions. With the proper medications, materials and technology on-they can provide immediate care. Plus, with emergency collaboration with NGMC, communication and care processes will begin before the patient even arrives, ensuring that care is accelerated and streamlined.

What is a STEMI?

Also known as an ST-elevated myocardial infarction, a STEMI is the most severe form of heart attack. It occurs when blood flow in one of the heart’s main arteries is completely or partially obstructed. When this occurs, that portion of the heart isn’t getting the oxygen and nutrient-rich blood it needs – and that part of the heart begins to die without intervention.

Learn more about heart attack and how it differs from cardiac arrest.

Connect with our program

If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. This webpage is only meant to provide information about the services available at NGMC hospitals, it is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment. If you have non-urgent questions about cardiac care at NGMC, please call 770-534-2020 .