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Salt Lake County Paramedics Get New Devices to Aid Heart Attack

Salt Lake County paramedics are being equipped with new devices to speed treatment of heart attack sufferers - and South Jordan is leading the way.

On July 15, South Jordan City Fire Department and Jordan Valley Medical Center piloted cell phone technology that allows paramedics to transmit full 12-lead electrocardiograms to hospitals, placing doctors on alert and giving them data they need to diagnose and prepare treatments.

The system has been used on a dozen emergency calls, and is being adopted by other cities, including Midvale and West Valley, said Wayne Edginton, South Jordan battalion fire chief.

The fire department purchased the EKG equipment - costing $25,000 per ambulance - as part of a push to create a "heart-safe community," said Edginton.

The department also has offered free cardiopulmonary resuscitation training to hundreds of residents and is encouraging businesses and public buildings to stock automated external defibrillators.

Heart disease is America's No. 1 killer, claiming the lives of 36 percent of the more than 2.4 million people who die each year, according to the American Heart Association.

But timely care can save lives, said Edginton. "Time is muscle as far as heart attacks are concerned."

The new EKG technology frees patients to bypass testing in the emergency room, shaving by 30 to 40 minutes the time it takes to get them into a catheterization lab, where doctors can perform a balloon angioplasty to open clogged coronary arteries and restore blood flow to the heart.

"We call that 'door to balloon time,' " said Jordan Valley emergency physician Bart Johansen. Restoring oxygen to the heart prevents damage to the muscle and improves outcomes, he said.

Also, a 12-lead EKG is more accurate than the single-lead systems in most ambulances, said Edginton, who says it takes about two minutes to hook up a patient and get a reading.

The information is sent via Bluetooth wireless to a PDA and then to a server in Denver. In less than a minute, the server alerts the receiving hospital and spits out an EKG.

Johansen said the technology pairs with less-invasive procedures developed by cardiologists in recent years.

But, Johansen cautions, patients who ignore symptoms or drive themselves to the hospital deprive themselves of such life-saving innovations.

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