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June 21, 2011

A new study shows that hospitals are failing to transfer patients who need emergency heart attack procedures to better-equipped hospitals within the recommended time.

Researchers at Duke University School of Medicine reviewed the records of nearly 15,000 patients from 298 hospitals who suffered a heart attack called ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).

Blockage of a coronary artery is usually the cause of a ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Ideal treatment of a STEMI occurs within the first 90 minutes and involves percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), also known as angioplasty, in which doctors remove the blockage and implant a stent.

However, most U.S. hospitals do not perform this emergency heart attack procedure. This means that people suffering this type of heart attack will need transport to another hospital that does perform the procedure, and time is of the essence.

According to Reuters, researchers found that hospitals failed to transport more than a third of patients suffering a STEMI within the first ninety minutes, making them miss the optimum PCI treatment window.

The study entitled Association of Door-In to Door-Out Time With Reperfusion Delays and Outcomes Among Patients Transferred for Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention appears in this month’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“Patients who leave the hospital in less than thirty minutes have much lower mortality,” said study researcher Dr. Tracy Wang. “We should really accelerate our efforts to get patients the care they need.”

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