A heart attack patient’s chances for survival depend on swift transitions at four key points. First, the patient needs to bring his or her symptoms to medical attention as soon as possible. Then the ambulance, Emergency Department, and catheterization lab teams must coordinate care and address the problem as efficiently as possible. Physicians at Brigham and Women’s and Massachusetts General hospitals and the North Shore Medical Center have been working together to reduce what is called “door-to-balloon” time. Under the leadership of Andrew Eisenhauer, MD, Director of Cardiac Medicine Quality Improvement at Partners HealthCare, the groups have shaved minutes off many steps to get life-saving treatment to the patient as soon as possible. In an optimal situation, the paramedic uses an electrocardiogram to verify the patient is having a heart attack, and the Emergency Medical Technician then calls ahead to alert the ED staff to activate the hospital’s cath lab. The lab is open 24/7, ready to do the procedure. There, a tiny balloon is used to open the blocked artery.
Staff at Partners HealthCare are “at the ready” to handle patients with this problem. Patients can join in this effort by knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and calling 911 without delay. This can help improve their outcome.