Lifewatch: Heart attack alert

Reported by Claire Hosmann - email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - It is crucial a patient gets immediate medical attention when having a heart attack, and now there is a new alert system that helps heart attack victims get help on time.

Two Years ago Paramedic Tim Davis found himself on a stretcher in the back of an ambulance after having a severe heart attack.  Blood flow to his heart was completely blocked.

"Your whole goal is to limit the amount of time that the heart is without appropriate blood flow," said Cardiologist, Dr. Douglas Van Fossen.

A balloon angioplasty to open the artery can cut the risk of dying by 40% if it's done within 90 minutes of when the patient gets to the hospital.

The new Stemi-Alert Systems has speed up that process.

"Now our average time is somewhere between 54 and 58 minutes door to balloon to get that patient fixed," said Dr. Van Fossen.

The alert signals the entire emergency team that a critical heart attack patient is arriving, before they were notified one at a team.

Researchers at Yale found having a single call or page to activate the catheterization lab can save almost 14 minutes, which means everything to people having a heart attack.

Some hospitals are educating EMS personnel to identify the most critical kinds of heart attacks in the field.  The goal is to activate the alert system before the patients gets to the hospital.

For more information, please contact:
Christina Fitzer, Communications & Media Relations Associate
Riverside Methodist Hospital
(614) 566-4517

BACKGROUND: According to the American Heart Association, every year more than one million Americans suffer a heart attack. A heart attack, or myocardial infarction (MI), is permanent damage to the heart muscle. "Myo" means muscle, "cardial" refers to the heart, and "infarction" means death of tissue due to lack of blood supply. There are different types of heart attacks, but most are due to a blockage in a coronary artery. An ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is a severe heart attack caused by a prolonged period of blocked blood supply that affects a large area of the heart. During a non-STEMI heart attack blood flow is only partially blocked.

TREATMENT: The most effective way to treat a STEMI heart attack is with percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), more commonly known as angioplasty. A balloon angioplasty is done by inserting a thin catheter with a deflated balloon on the end into a blood vessel through a small puncture hole. The catheter is then fed up through the body to the area of the vessel that is blocked. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to push back the blockage and open the vessel. Often time a stent is left in place once the balloon is deflated to permanently hold the vessel open. Balloon angioplasty is most effective in STEMI patients if it is done within 90 minutes of the patient arriving at the hospital.

THE ALERT: Time is a critical factor in a STEMI heart attack situation because the longer the heart is without blood supply the greater the risk of permanent damage and even death. STEMIAlert is a warning system that alerts hospitals when a patient with STEMI heart attack symptoms is en rout to the emergency room. The protocol for the alert starts with the EMT crew by directing them to a hospital that has PCI capabilities. Generally to have PCI capabilities a hospital must have a catheterization (or cath) lab. A cath lab is a room that is equipped with imaging tools that are essential for performing an angioplasty. Once an appropriate hospital is selected by the EMT crew, it is alerted so that doctors, nurses and cath lab technicians are ready for the incoming patient. Because everyone is alerted at once, rather than the old person-to-person approach, critical time is saved. The goal of STEMIAlert is for patients to have a balloon placed in less than 90 minutes from the time they arrive at the hospital. Douglas Van Fossen, M.D., a cardiologist at Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where STEMIAlert is currently being used, says he sees a definite benefit. "Our average time is somewhere between 54 and 58 minutes door to balloon to get that patient fixed, and nationally it's on the order of about 93 to 120 minutes, so we've really come down against the national standard quite well," Dr. Van Fossen told Ivanhoe. The long-term goal of the STEMIAlert system is to reduce the benchmark time to 90 minutes from the patient's home to balloon insertion.