Don’t Delay Treatment, Call 9-1-1 and Get a Ride
Driving yourself or getting a ride to the hospital in case of a heart attack may seem like a time saver, but a new study shows it actually delays the start of treatment.
Study co-author Dr. Jeffrey Sather, medical director of Emergency Medical Services for the North Dakota Department of Health, said it shows that treatment begins about 15 minutes sooner by calling 911 for an ambulance versus arriving in a private vehicle.
The reason, Sather said, is that EMS workers are able to begin basic care and get a diagnosis right away, “so we actually know before the arrival of the patient that this patient needs definitive care in the cardiac cath lab. So the cath lab is activated. The team is ready and waiting. “In rural areas, that is really important,” he said, “because if it’s in the middle of the night, sometimes that cardiologist and team comes in from home.”
The study examined the records of nearly 800 patients in the region with what’s called a STEMI heart attack, which is when the coronary artery is completely blocked. With this type of heart attack especially, Sather said, time is critical to survival. “The faster this care is rendered,” he said, “the less heart muscle damage and the more likely the patient will survive to go back to a normal life.”
Despite the better odds of recovery by calling 911, the study found that more than half of these patients arrived at the hospital by private vehicle. Sather said that not only delays treatment but also can put others at risk. “You can go into cardiac arrest from this type of heart attack and your heart stops. You’re going to be unconscious. If you’re driving you’re going to injure yourself possibly and run the risk of injuring other people.”
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading cause of death in North Dakota, claiming around 1,300 lives each year. Sather’s study is online at newsroom.heart.org.
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