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Published on November 21, 2016

Standard-setting Heart Attack Treatment Saves Patients’ Lives

Outcomes are better when patients get heart attack treatment quickly.

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Surviving a major heart attack means competing against the clock. From the time symptoms start, every minute counts. That’s why the emergency response for a heart attack patient’s treatment is such an important factor in a successful recovery.

The Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center’s program for the emergency treatment of heart attack patients, which began in 2000, sets the national standard for care by cutting the time from hospital door to balloon angioplasty treatment from two hours to about 37 minutes. Read on to learn how everyone involved—from emergency medical service (EMS) to cardiac surgeons—rallies to save lives that might otherwise be cut short.

How to beat the clock

Boiled down to its essential steps, here’s how the innovative approach at Cone Health’s Heart and Vascular Center speeds time to treatment—and how it can save your life.

Heart attack symptoms begin.

  • The call is placed to 911.
  • The ambulance/EMS arrives at the patient’s location.
  • After an initial assessment, the patient is put into the ambulance.

Care and tests begin while the ambulance is en route to the hospital.

  • EMS medic starts IV fluids and perform electrocardiogram (EKG) and other diagnostic tests.
  • EKG results are transmitted electronically to the emergency department doctor and interventional cardiologist during patient transport.
  • The hospital prepares for heart attack treatment while the patient is on the way.
  • The cardiac team is alerted that a possible heart attack patient is about to arrive.
  • Cardiologists read EKG results to confirm a heart attack is in progress.

If it’s definitely a heart attack:

  • Upon arrival by ambulance, the patient bypasses the emergency department and is taken directly to the Cardiac Cath Lab.
  • Cardiac cath and balloon angioplasty with stenting is performed.

If it’s not clear that it’s a heart attack:

  • The emergency department staff prepares to perform further diagnostic testing.
  • Upon arrival by ambulance, the patient is assessed in the emergency department.
  • The patient receives diagnostic testing and appropriate treatment.

The program offers significant benefits:

    • Reduces time to start heart attack treatment from two hours to about 37 minutes, starting at the patient’s arrival at the hospital
    • Expedites opening of the artery
    • Expedites restoration of blood flow to the heart
    • Helps reduce damage to heart muscle
    • Improves the chances of survival

The Cone Health Heart and Vascular Center at The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital is one of North Carolina’s most advanced cardiovascular facilities. We were among the first hospitals in the nation to perform a balloon angioplasty (1983), and among the first to use stents in the treatment of heart attack (1994). Our program to speed the start of heart attack treatment, begun in 2000, is now the national standard of care.

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