TUESDAY, Aug. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Deaths from a severe type of heart attack rise by about 10 percent for every hour of delay between the time the patient calls for an ambulance and the time that patient is treated in the hospital, a new European study finds.
Researchers in Denmark analyzed data from Danish medical registries on 6,209 patients taken by ambulance to three major hospitals for an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), a particularly serious type of heart attack caused by a blocked artery, between January 2002 and December 2008.
In patients with such heart attacks, the longer the artery is blocked, the more heart muscle that is damaged and the greater the chances of death, explained study author Dr. Christian Juhl Terkelsen, a cardiologist at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.
During a median follow-up period of 3.5 years, about 15.4 percent of patients died in the group that waited less than an hour from the time they called for an ambulance to the time they were being treated at the hospital, compared to 23.3 percent of those treated in up to two hours; 28.1 percent of those treated within just over two to three hours; and 30.8 percent of those treated within three to four hours.
Previous research has focused on delays in such care (called door-to-balloon delay, since the preferred treatment is known informally as balloon angioplasty), the researchers noted. But this study is the first to document that delays from the moment the patient calls for an ambulance increases the risk of death, Terkelsen said.
"Our message is we should focus on all health-care system delays, which often starts with the call for the ambulance," Terkelsen said.
The study is published in the Aug. 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The three hospitals included in the study were high-volume centers that offer pri
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