Heart Attack Care Crucial in the Minutes After Onset

heart attack careAs a registered nurse, Bill Ferrell knew what he was in for when he awoke to crushing chest pain in the early morning in November 2009. By the time the ambulance arrived, Ferrell couldn’t stand or talk. First responders sent his electrocardiogram (EKG) directly to a physician, and he was diagnosed with acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, before he even reached the doors of Memorial Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

Within 42 minutes of arriving, Ferrell was transported to the Cardiac Cath Lab and received a stent in his blocked artery, which brought immediate relief by the restored blood flow to his heart. The quick care was a result of Memorial’s Star 80 program, a team effort among caregivers and physicians in the Emergency Department and Cardiac Cath Lab to open the heart blockage in patients suffering heart attacks within 80 minutes or less.

Most heart attack patients from across the country are treated within the national standard of 90 minutes, according to a recent study. Researchers found that in 2005, only 44 percent of patients were treated in that recommended time, but last year it went up to 91 percent. Memorial’s target door-to-balloon time, the period between hospital arrival to angioplasty, has been 10 minutes less than the national standard since March 2008.

“We were meeting less than 90 minutes consistently so we went to 80 to shave additional minutes for patients,” said Jennifer Boyer, director of Emergency Medical Services.

During a heart attack, every minute spared is heart muscle saved, so time is a crucial factor in ensuring you can resume normal activity. Know the signs to watch for to be sure you or your loved one gets the proper care needed when every minute counts:

  • Discomfort or pressure in the center of the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of nausea or lightheadedness
  • Pain in one or both arms

Don’t delay. Call 911 if you notice one or more of these symptoms and suspect a heart attack.