TUESDAY, June 5, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- The largest voluntary statewide heart attack care program in the United States reduced the time it takes patients to receive treatment and improved patient survival rates, a new study says.
The program, called RACE-ER (Reperfusion of Acute Myocardial Infarction in Carolina Emergency Departments -- Emergency Response) includes 119 hospitals and more than 500 emergency-service agencies in North Carolina.
Between July 2008 and December 2009, RACE-ER decreased from 103 minutes to 90 minutes the time between a heart attack patient's first contact with emergency medical personnel and arrival at a hospital that performs angioplasty to open blocked heart arteries. Fifty-two percent of those patients were treated within 60 minutes.
Treatment times for patients transferred from hospitals that don't perform angioplasty to hospitals that do perform the procedure fell from 117 minutes to 103 minutes. By December 2009, 39 percent of those patients were being treated within 90 minutes, researchers from Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., said.
The study was published June 4 in the journal Circulation.
"When treating heart attacks, the most important care decisions need to take place before the patient is brought to the hospital," study first author Dr. James Jollis, a cardiologist at Duke, said in a university news release. "These procedures should be in place in every hospital and every emergency-service system in the country."
"Every second counts when it comes to salvaging the heart muscle and saving lives," study co-author Dr. Christopher Granger, also a cardiologist at Duke, said in the release.
"This statewide effort was designed to treat patients faster regardless of the challenges posted by geography or health care settings," Granger said. "We coordinated a system of care that starts when the 911 call comes in, includes the care patients receive in the ambulance and the treatment they undergo at hospitals to restore blood flow in blocked heart arteries."
"As a result, when patients were treated within the 90-minute door-to-device goal, we were able to reduce [death] rates to 2.2 percent," he added.
By comparison, the death rate is 5.7 percent when patients are not treated within the 90-minute target, according to the release.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about heart attack treatment.