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Treating Heart Attacks Faster Did not Lower the Death Rate

Update Date: Sep 05, 2013 11:09 AM EDT

Heart attacks are relatively difficult to treat due to the capricious nature of this illness. Heart attacks can occur any where at any time and access to care might not be so readily available. Due to this fact, researchers and medical experts have tried to find numerous ways of treating heart attack patients as soon as possible. Even though fast treatment is effective in caring for heart attack survivors, a new study found that even though heart attack patients are getting care at the hospitals faster than before, the mortality rates due to heart attacks have not been reduced.

The researchers examined the data of around 97,000 hospital admissions. From the data, the researchers focused on patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction, which is a type of heart attack characterized by a completely blocked artery in the heart. This type of heart attack is considered to be a life-threatening situation that prompts immediate care. In order to treat this condition, doctors have to unclog the arteries, which helps restore blood flow or else the heart muscle will die. Experts stated that the best treatment is to do a cardiac catheterization.

According to the new study, between the time span of 2005 to 2006 and 2008 to 2009, hospitals were effective in cutting the time it took, from 83 minutes to 67 minutes, to treat heart attack patients. The report also calculated that 83 percent of heart attack patients were treated in less than 90 minutes at the end of the study. At the beginning of the study, only 60 percent of the heart attack patients were treated this quickly.

Despite the statistic that showed improvement in medical care, the researchers discovered that the mortality rate due to an ST-elevation myocardial infarction has not changed from its five percent. This finding suggests that doctors are not performing the cardiac catheterization fast enough to save the patients. Once someone suffers from a heart attack, irreversible damage can occur after the first 30 minutes. Within the first two to three hours, the tissue starts to die.

"We're shaving off the last 10, 20, or 30 minutes," Hitinder Gurm, one of the study's authors said according to USA Today. Gurm is an associated professor at the University of Michigan. "But the total time that the artery has been blocked has not changed much. We need to move upstream. We need to get patients to recognize their symptoms faster and get to the hospital sooner."

Based from these findings, the researchers, once again, stressed the importance recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack and calling 911 in order to get care as soon as possible. This new report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine

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