TUESDAY, June 28, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- The time it takes to transfer heart attack patients to hospitals that provide emergency coronary angioplasty was greatly reduced when a statewide transfer program was launched in North Carolina, a new study finds.
It included 436 patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the most lethal form of heart attack that occurs when a large area of the heart is deprived of blood supply. These patients generally need coronary angioplasty to open blocked coronary arteries within 90 minutes of first being assessed by emergency medical personnel.
However, only 25 percent of hospitals in the United States can perform emergency coronary angioplasty, in which a balloon-tipped tube is threaded through an artery in the heart. The balloon is then inflated to open the artery and restore blood flow.
In this study of 55 North Carolina hospitals, the researchers looked at how long it took to transfer patients from hospitals unable to perform emergency coronary angioplasty to hospitals that can do the procedure, before and one year after creation of the new patient transfer system.
They found that the median door-in-door-out time decreased from 97 minutes to 58 minutes.
The study is published June 28 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.
"The work being done to coordinate what happens in hospitals and ambulances can make a big difference in getting people quicker treatment and saving more lives," lead researcher Dr. Seth Glickman, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said in a journal news release.
"But with that said, more work is still needed to expand the integrated systems across the country and to further reduce time to treatment," he added.
The American Heart Association has more about heart attack.