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Doctors Aggressively Treating Heart Attack

Study finds they're using tools available even before lab tests confirm diagnosis

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FRIDAY, April 13, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors do a good job of aggressively treating heart attacks in the early stages and often take action before laboratory tests confirm the diagnosis, says a study that included 8,312 patients at 467 hospitals in 12 countries.

"There has always been a concern that patients may be treated less aggressively when they present with heart attack symptoms before laboratory tests are able to confirm the diagnosis," study author Dr. Chadwick Miller, an emergency medicine physician at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., said in a prepared statement.

"But these findings suggest doctors are doing an appropriate job of aggressively treating these patients," Miller said.

The study found that both patients with early heart attack symptoms and those who were confirmed to be having a heart attack had similar rates of treatment with blood-thinning medications, angioplasty to open blocked arteries, and surgery to bypass blocked arteries.

It appears that instead of waiting for laboratory test results to confirm the diagnosis in patients with early heart attack symptoms, doctors are using other immediately available data -- such as patient history and electrocardiogram -- to make treatment decisions, Miller said.

He and his colleagues also found that patients with early heart attack symptoms were 19 percent less likely to die or have a second heart attack within 30 days than patients who were immediately diagnosed with a heart attack. This may be because patients with early symptoms of heart attack arrived at hospital emergency departments a median of 1.7 hours after the start of their symptoms, compared with four hours for patients who were immediately diagnosed with heart attack.

The study was published online in the European Heart Journal, and is expected to be in a future print issue of the journal.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines heart attack warning signs.

SOURCE: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, news release, April 9, 2007


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