American Heart Association’s Acute Coronary Syndrome Algorithm

Child builds an algorithm out of blocks

American Heart Association’s Acute Coronary Syndrome Algorithm

What is Acute Coronary Syndrome?

Acute coronary syndrome is a condition that happens when the blood supply to the heart is interrupted because of a sudden blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries.

The interruption in blood supply can cause crushing chest pain, and a person will sometimes experience shortness of breath, pain radiating to the jaw, arm or shoulder, and they may sweat, feel nauseous, or vomit. Providers sometimes cannot identify a specific cardiac event with the ACS symptoms alone. That is why the Acute Coronary Syndrome algorithm is so important.

RELATED: The Complete American Heart Association Acute Coronary Syndrome Algorithm

What Updates Has the American Heart Association Made to the Acute Coronary Syndrome Algorithm?

Since 2016, no changes have been made to the ACS Algorithm. However, the ACS Chain of Survival has been renamed as STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction) in order to include different terms to emphasize its use.

RELATED: What’s New in the BLS Guidelines Since 2016?

STEMI Chain of Survival
STEMI (formerly ACS) Chain of Survival.

The STEMI Chain of Survival outlines the rapid succession of steps needed to maximize the chances of survival from sudden cardiac arrest. The ACS Algorithm, on the other hand, helps to more accurately identify and treat a specific cardiac event.

Treatment and Management of Acute Coronary Syndrome Using the Algorithm

The ACS Algorithm is used if a victim has symptoms suggestive of ischemia (inadequate blood supply to the heart) or infarction (obstruction of blood supply causing local death of tissue). This is followed by:

  1. EMS assessment and care in addition to hospital preparation
  2. Concurrent ED/cath lab assessment (<10 minutes) AND treatment
  3. ECG interpretation
  4. Actions to take if STEMI
  5. Actions to take if NSTEMI

This is only a summary of the algorithm. The full Acute Coronary Syndrome Algorithm can be found by downloading an ACLS course pack.

RELATED: ACLS Algorithms

It is important to study and memorize the ACS Algorithm, as rapid response to symptoms of ischemia or infarction will prevent further damage to the heart, tissues and vital organs in a patient experiencing cardiac arrest. 

A red heart rests on an ECG printout with a stethoscope.

What Else Do I Need to Know About ACS and Where Can I Learn More?

RELATED: The 5 Must-Know Questions (and Answers) For Your 2022 ACLS Certification Exam

In addition to studying the full ACLS Algorithm, an ACLS provider (or those interested in learning more about ACS) can take the full ACLS Certification course online through Medical ProCerts. The course materials are easy to follow, and include a more in-depth look into ACS and other ACLS algorithms, as well as ACLS pharmacology and access routes, airway management, basic life support (BLS), mnemonics used in ACLS (here’s some examples) and more.

Sign up at Medical ProCerts to start learning (and get certified) today!

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