Picture: A corridor in a hospital 
Acute coronary care has
improved in the last years
© Pixelio.de

The study finds that the change occurred at the same time that hospitals increased their use of certain drugs, tests and procedures that have been proven to help reduce the immediate and long-term impact of acute heart problems. The results suggest that concerted efforts to standardize heart care are working.

But, the authors caution: Many patients who could benefit from all of the proven treatments aren't getting them. Previous data have shown that the U.S. actually lags behind some other countries in several aspects of acute coronary care.

The study is from the Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE), which has collected data from 44,372 patients treated at 113 hospitals in 14 countries. All the patients had suffered either a kind of severe heart attack called ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI), or had acute coronary syndrome (ACS), which includes non-STEMI heart attack and a kind of chest pain called unstable angina.

Between 1999 and 2006, the use of heart-protecting drugs in these patients increased markedly, including use of aspirin, cholesterol-lowering statins, clot-reducing drugs called glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors, blood thinners such as clopidogrel and heparin, and blood pressure-reducing drugs including ACE inhibitors.

At the same time, the use of angiography to see blocked arteries in the heart and angioplasty as an emergency or secondary treatment to reopen blockages increased by more than 30 percent in STEMI patients and around 20 percent in ACS patients.

As the use of all these treatments increased, the death rate for patients both in the hospital and in their first six months after going home decreased significantly. So did the risk that patients would develop heart failure, have pulmonary oedema, or suffer a stroke in their first six months after hospitalization.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan Health System