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Missing A Treatment Step Increases Death Risk for Heart Attack Patients

Update Date: Sep 17, 2014 11:07 AM EDT

When people suffer from a heart attack, receiving proper treatment is vital. In a new study, researchers examined the nine-step treatment plan for heart attack patients and discovered that when any of the nine steps were missed, the patients' mortality risk increased.

"The tragedy of all this is that these deaths are avoidable," study leader Dr. Chris Gale, of the University of Leeds School of Medicine, said in a university news release reported by Philly. "There is a clear relationship between the ability to provide comprehensive and timely care, and treatment and improved chance of heart attack survival."

For this report, the researchers listed the nine critical steps in treating heart attack patients, which included but are not limited to the use of an electrocardiogram, administration of aspirin, ACE-inhibitors, beta-blockers, angiotensin receptor blockers and statins, restoration of blood flow to the heart, which is called reperfusion, and a referral for cardiac rehabilitation after hospital discharge.

Overall, the researchers calculated that missing any of these steps resulted in a 46 percent increased risk of dying within one-month post hospital discharge. The risk of death after one-year since leaving the hospital increased to 74 percent. The team found that when doctors did not use the electrocardiogram within hours after symptoms manifested, they were more likely to miss the other treatment steps.

"It is vitally important that health care professionals working in the heart disease field are made fully aware of, and trained in, these nine types of treatment so that the chances of saving a heart attack patient's life are maximized," Gale said. "Many of these guideline recommended steps are straightforward, but for some reason they are not being provided. If more components of care are missed, the chance of dying increases further."

The team based their calculations on data that were taken from the Myocardial Ischemia National Audit Project (MINAP) that involved patients from England and Wales. From January 2007 to December 2010, there were a total of 112,286 heart attack patients who were discharged from a hospital. Around 50 percent of these patients did not receive all nine critical treatment steps during their hospital stay.

The study, "Mortality and missed opportunities along the pathway of care for ST-elevation myocardial infarction: a national cohort study," was published in the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care.

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