FRIDAY, Aug. 3, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- While the use of emergency angioplasty and clot-busting drugs to treat heart attack patients in the United States has increased significantly since the mid 1990s, about 10 percent of eligible patients still don't receive these therapies.
That's the finding of a new study in the American Journal of Medicine.
Angioplasty and clot-busting drugs reopen clogged arteries and restore blood flow to the heart muscle. This kind of treatment, called emergency reperfusion, can save lives and prevent lasting damage to the heart.
A team of researchers led by cardiologists at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center and the Yale University School of Medicine analyzed national data on more than 238,000 people who had heart attacks between 1994 and 2003. All of the patients had a type of heart attack for which emergency reperfusion is appropriate.
During that 10-year period, the percentage of eligible patients who did not receive emergency reperfusion declined from more than 20 percent to 10 percent. While that's a major improvement, having 10 percent of eligible patients go untreated is still too high, the study authors said.
Eligible patients most likely to miss out on emergency reperfusion included: Those whose heart attack symptoms didn't include typical symptoms such as chest pain; those who didn't reach the hospital until six or more hours after the start of their heart attack; women; people over age 75; and non-white people.
"We may never be able to get to 100 percent, but 10 percent of eligible patients going untreated is still too many," study first author Dr. Brahmajee Nallamothu, assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a prepared statement.
"We hope our study highlights the opportunities to improve care and particularly some of the 'at-risk' subgroups still less likely to receive reperfusion therapy despite eligibility, so that we can focus our clinical efforts on them," Nallamothu said.
The American Heart Association has more about heart attack treatments.