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ECGs administered by paramedics can speed treatment for severe heart attacks
Date:7/20/2012

Philadelphia, PA, July 20, 2012 A new program that trains emergency medical service technicians (EMS) to read electrocardiograms so that they can evaluate patients with chest pain, and expedite treatment for the severe heart condition known as ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a serious form of heart attack, has excellent results and should become the standard of care, according to two studies published in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

"It's well established that morbidity and mortality in myocardial infarctions is directly related to the duration of ischemia, and delays in restoring the flow of blood to the heart of even 30 minutes have been associated with an increase in mortality," says lead investigator Robin A. Ducas, MD, of the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada. "By training EMS to administer and interpret ECGs at the scene, with oversight from an on-call physician, we demonstrated that we could achieve benchmark times from first medical contact to treatment."

An audit of hospitals in Manitoba in 2005 had previously revealed that only 14% of patients received thrombolysis, the administration of drugs to dissolve blood clots, within 30 minutes from first medical contact, and only 11% received primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI, or angioplasty) within 90 minutes of first medical contact, the benchmark established by leading heart associations, including the Canadian Cardiovascular Society.

To address this, a system of pre-hospital ECG interpretation and triage was developed. EMS receive additional training in administering and interpreting ECGs for signs of STEMI. When EMS suspect STEMI, the ECG is transmitted to the hand-held device of the on-call physician for confirmation. When STEMI is confirmed, the physician directs EMS to begin pre-hospital thrombolysis (PHL) or to alert the PPCI laboratory at the hospital to prepare for the patient. Transm
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Contact: Erika Brown-Schumann
e.schumann@elsevier.com
215-239-3704
Elsevier
Source:Eurekalert

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