Technology Speeds Attack on Heart Attack


Pamela Manson | | Thursday, July 16, 2009

OREM - Even before an ambulance crew rolls a heart attack victim through the doors at Timpanogos Regional Hospital, doctors have diagnosed the problem. With a treatment plan ready and a medical team assembled, the patient bypasses the emergency room and is sent straight to the cardiac lab for the insertion of a balloon to unblock an artery.

More lives and heart muscle are saved the faster a heart attack is diagnosed and a balloon inserted. The national standard for door-to-balloon time is 90 minutes. But thanks to a new technology, Timpanogos physicians can clear a blocked artery in less than an hour.

In one recent case, the hospital had a 23-minute door-to-balloon time. Since last year, Timpanogos and the Orem Fire Department have been transmitting detailed information from 12-lead EKGs from the field to physicians at the hospital while patients are in transit. An EKG, or electrocardiogram, is a recording of the electrical activity of the heart from leads attached to a patient's chest. A 12-lead EKG gives a full view of the heart; with 3-lead EKGs, which previously were used, only one area of the heart is shown.

In Orem, the EKG is sent by cell phone to a hospital computer, where a physician determines if a heart attack has occurred and where in the heart the damage is located. The doctor can give treatment instructions to paramedics in the ambulance and have a cardiac team waiting when the patient arrives. The doctors previously had to wait for the ambulance to arrive to read the results.

The use of pre-hospital 12-lead EKGs gets a thumbs-up from medical personnel and patients. Capt. Ryan Peterson of the Orem Fire Department, said paramedics use the technology daily. "We've had multiple cases of improved outcomes," he said. Ron Barlow, an emergency physician at Timpanogos, said every second counts because heart cells are dying and they do not grow back. "Using a 12-lead is sort of like replacing a winding road with an expressway," Barlow said. "It's great technology."

impanogos, which is part of MountainStar Medical Group, is the only hospital in Utah County transmitting EKG data directly from the ambulance to the emergency room. The procedure also is used at Lakeview Hospital, a MountainStar facility in Bountiful.

Patient Keith Newport says he's living proof of the technology's benefits. The 59-year-old collapsed at home in January while exercising and was taken five miles by ambulance in a snowstorm to Lakeview. Mike Shafto, a South Davis Metro Fire paramedic, attached a 12-lead to Newport's chest and said he immediately realized that the situation was critical. A medical team was assembled and 37 minutes after Newport came through the hospital doors, the artery causing his heart attack was cleared.

He was discharged from Lakeview two days later. "I can't tell you how relieved I was to find people waiting," Newport said. "I not only didn't suffer any ill effects, I feel better."

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Related Topics: Cardiac and Circulation, Communications and Dispatch, Leadership and Professionalism, Technology, Patient Management, Research

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