New Ways of Reducing Precious Time

Heart attack - always a fight
against time; © Hemera

One thing is commonly known in the treatment of major heart attacks - time saves lives in this deadly game of beat the clock. Two cardiac specialists from Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa., have found a way to more than cut in half the amount of time that it takes for a patient to get from the helicopter door to the catheterisation table.

Dr. James Blankenship and Dr. Thomas Haldis collaborated on research regarding primary angioplasty that shows how they reduced the treatment time for a heart attack patient from 91 minutes to 32 minutes. "This research is significant because the longer the heart attack is untreated, the more heart muscle dies,” Blankenship says.

"We have eliminated middle management in the heart attack treatment process - meaning that we have empowered ER physicians to diagnose an acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and call out the catheterisation team. We have an interventional cardiologist on call 24/7, 365 days a year - so we can move the patient through the hospital faster. In many cases, Geisinger Medical Center receives the referred AMI patient right at the cardiac catheterisation lab.”

In rural central Pennsylvania patients being treated for AMI with angioplasty often must be transferred. Geisinger's research shows that delays from the onset of heart attack symptoms to the time of treatment were not the result of transit time as commonly thought, even when patients were transferred long distances. The delays were due to time spent waiting for a team of physicians to be contacted and informed of the diagnosis and treatment recommendation.

"A concise AMI decision-making roadmap empowers the ER physician to take action. By following the AMI roadmap, the time from arrival at our hospital to the opening of the artery has been reduced by more than 50 percent - from 91 minutes to 32 minutes,” says Haldis. "And opening the blocked artery earlier leads to more lives saved."; Source: Geisinger Health System