When it comes to extreme medical emergencies, time is of the essence. Think the ‘golden hour’ in getting a patient to a trauma center. The phrase ‘time is brain’ refers to stroke. In the most common form of heart attack- time is muscle.
“The outcome of having a heart attack if undiagnosed or untreated is that certain parts of the heart muscle die. Now if a large part of the heart muscle dies the patient dies,” says Dr. Larry Hobbs, emergency physician with Lee Memorial Health System.
The most dangerous type of heart attack involves a sudden blockage of a coronary artery. The sooner it’s identified, the faster doctors can act.
“So the aim of the health care system in the whole country is in the shortest possible time to stop the heart attack by opening the artery,” says Dr. Subhash Kshetrapal, cardiologist.
National guidelines call for a 90-minute door-to-balloon. From the time a patient hits the ER until an angioplasty, or balloon, is inserted to open the blockage.
“After the ballooning more blood is flowing and the patient, most of the time, is feeling a whole lot better by now. As the artery opens the chest pain disappears,” says Dr. Kshetrapal.
In Lee County, they are taking steps to shrink that window by working with first responders. Calling 911 instead of driving to the hospital shaves about 10 minutes. Before the patient even gets to the ER, EMS is getting a read on them, transmitting an EKG to the hospital - where doctors are waiting.
“If we can save that muscle from dying we do a lot to help that patient lead a normal life,” says Dr. Hobbs.
Preparing for heart attacks and treating them systematically is saving time, lives and heart muscle.