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Treating heart attack patients faster saves muscle

When it comes to heart attacks, every minute can be the difference between life and death, between health and disability.

The faster a heart attack patient receives treatment, the more heart muscle is preserved, leading to better patient outcomes.

The American College of Cardiology standard is treatment with primary angioplasty or stent within 90 minutes of coming through the Emergency Department door.

Baptist Health Louisville has been meeting -- and frequently exceeding -- that standard since 2003 through the hard work of a multidisciplinary team of doctors, nurses and clinicians.

For most patients, an emergency procedure called a primary angioplasty is performed which can stop a heart attack through minimally-invasive insertion of a stent, or inflation of a balloon.

Now, vital patient information is being transmitted from the ambulance to the Emergency Department physicians to start treatment even sooner. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in the ambulance perform 12-lead EKGs that are transmitted wirelessly to a dedicated computer in Baptist Louisvilleā€™s Emergency Department.

The idea is to send patient information to the hospital before the ambulance arrives so that, if needed, the Cardiac Cath team can be activated. If the EMTs suspect the patient has had a heart attack, they can transmit that to the ED.

More than 1.1 million Americans suffer a heart attack each year. Symptoms of a heart attack may include pain in the chest, arm, head, shoulder or abdomen, or nausea, fatigue and shortness of breath. Women are more likely to feel tired, or generally ill. If you feel these symptoms, dial 911 immediately.

For more information on heart care, visit the new online Heart Care Center and take a heart risk assessment.