April 24 (HealthDay News) -- Better coordination between paramedics, emergency room staff and laboratory personnel has led to steady improvements in the time needed to restore blood flow to people having a severe heart attack, new research shows.
The study involved patients who had what's known as an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), the deadliest type of heart attack. They were treated initially at a major North Carolina medical center or transferred there from other area hospitals.
Researchers compared data from four time periods spanning from before the new practices were put into place in 2005 through mid-2008.
Measurements included how much time elapsed between a patient arriving at the hospital and having medications initiated (called door-to-needle, in hospital parlance) and the time from hospital arrival to angioplasty, a procedure to open a blocked blood vessel (called door-to-balloon).
"Significant reductions in treatment times across all measured parameters between pre- and post-intervention phases were noted," the researchers said in a news release from the American Heart Association. "Continuing statistically significant improvements were seen after completion of the official study period in door-to-needle as well as door-to-balloon and patient transfer times."
The study was to be presented Friday at American Heart Association's 10th Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke in Washington, D.C.
Every year, about 400,000 Americans experience a STEMI heart attack. STEMI, which affects a large area of the heart, carries a high risk of mortality and disability.
The study showed that better coordination can shorten the time to beginning coronary reperfusion -- techniques and treatments such as clot-dissolving drugs, angioplasty or surgery -- used to restore blood flow to the part of the heart muscle damaged during a heart attack. The finding "strongly favors the establishment of formal regional STEMI care networks," the researchers said.
SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, April 24, 2009