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ACS ranges from a heart attack (myocardial infarction) to unstable angina.

Heart attack (myocardial infarction)

If you have a heart attack, a coronary artery or one of its smaller branches is suddenly blocked. The part of the heart muscle supplied by this artery loses its blood (and oxygen) supply. This part of the heart muscle is at risk of dying unless the blockage is quickly undone. (The word infarction means death of some tissue due to a blocked artery which stops blood from getting past.) In addition to being known as a heart attack, a myocardial infarction is sometimes called a coronary thrombosis.

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Three types of angina:

Stable angina

Unstable angina

Variant angina

Classic angina

Crescendo angina

Prinzmetal angina

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Unstable angina

Unstable angina occurs when the blood clot causes a reduced blood flow but not a total blockage. This means that the heart muscle supplied by the affected artery does not die (infarct).



The term ‘acute coronary syndrome’ covers a range of disorders, including a heart attack (myocardial infarction) and unstable angina, that are caused by the same underlying problem.
The underlying problem is a sudden reduction of blood flow to part of the heart muscle. This is usually caused by a blood clot that forms on a patch of atheroma within a coronary artery.

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The types of problems range from unstable angina to an actual myocardial infarction. In unstable angina a blood clot causes reduced blood flow but not a total blockage.

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Therefore, the heart muscle supplied by the affected artery does not die (infarct). The location of the blockage, the length of time that blood flow is blocked and the amount of damage that occurs determine the type of ACS.