For heart attack patients, time is critical. Heat attack misdiagnosis or delays in heart attack treatment can lead to serious health consequences including death. In the world of heart attack treatment, minutes can mean saving a life, preventing further damage to the heart and improving the likelihood of recovery.
Standard medical protocols advise medical personnel to transfer heart attack patients to a hospital able to perform lifesaving medical procedures to open blocked articles within 30 minutes of the patient's arrival at an ill-equipped hospital. Yet, according to a study conducted at Duke University, only about one in 10 patients were moved to another hospital within the recommended timeframe.
The study revealed that over half the patients spent more than an hour at an ill-equipped hospital; almost a third of those heart-attack patients stayed longer than an hour and a half. The median time a heart-attack patient was kept at a hospital unable to perform lifesaving artery-opening procedures was slightly over an hour.
Data from the National Cardiovascular Data Registry's Acute Coronary Treatment and Intervention Outcomes Network was analyzed for the study and included patients who had an angioplasty procedure between January 2007 and March 2010. Of the patients transferred within the recommended 30 minutes, only 2.7 percent died in-hospital, while patients whose transfers were delayed longer than recommended 30 minute died at more than twice that rate - six percent.
Misdiagnosis? Delays in Diagnosis? Hospital Errors?
While one doctor commenting on the study suspects that the time delays are attributable to difficulties or delays in diagnosing the heart-attack patient's actual condition at the first hospital, the study did not specifically determine the cause of the delays in transfer.
Dr. Wang, of the Duke University researchers who published the report, noted that the study examined only the correlation between delays and patient deaths. Some speculate that system-level issues are places for improvement, including the time it takes to run an ECG at the first hospital, arrange transportation to the better-equipped hospital and schedule the heart-attack patient for the cath lab at the second hospital.
Source: TheHeart.Org, "30 minutes or less! STEMI patients' delay in referral hospital increases mortality," 6/21/2011