Minutes can mean life when having a heart attack
When you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, from chest pain to shortness of breath, neck or jaw pain, experts recommend calling 911 immediately to ensure getting to a hospital, fast.
In recent years, the term “door-to-balloon time” has become an important life-saving measurement. Door-to-balloon time is the amount of time from when a person enters the hospital until they receive an intervention, such as a balloon angioplasty and blood flow is restored.
There is increasing evidence that each minute that door-to-balloon time is reduced, the patient’s risk of serious heart damage or death is lowered. The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines recommend getting patients into treatment in 90 minutes or less, which is also known as the gold standard in the medical world.
“Coordination between first responders, the cardiac rapid response team, all in the emergency room and the cardiac catheterization lab team helps reduce the all-important door-to-balloon time,” says Dr. Sunil Kadakia, cardiologist at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. “The longer we wait before performing an angioplasty, the more heart tissue dies.”
Angioplasty is also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), a procedure where the narrowed portion of the coronary artery is widened. This is done by using a thin, soft tube called a catheter. The doctor inserts the catheter into a blood vessel in the groin (sometimes the arm) then the catheter is moved into the heart and coronary arteries, where a dye injected into the arteries helps the doctor identify blockages.
Then, a new catheter with a balloon inserted, is threaded to the blocked blood vessel. The doctor then inflates and deflates the balloon a few times and this helps widen the blood vessel. When complete, blood once again flows freely to the heart.
“The time that a patient enters the emergency room until the angioplasty balloon is inserted is most critical for better outcomes,” Dr. Kadakia says. “What this means is that the faster a medical team can open that blocked artery, the less damage to a patient’s heart muscle.”
If you think you are having a heart attack, get medical treatment as quickly as possible, Dr. Kadakia says.
“Call 9-1-1 immediately and don’t drive to the emergency room,” he says. “First responders can begin treatment immediately— even before you arrive at the hospital. If your heart stops beating during a heart attack, the emergency personnel are trained and have the proper equipment and heart attack patients who arrive by ambulance tend to receive faster treatment when they get to the hospital.”
To learn more from Dr. Kadakia, click here.
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