"They have shown very nicely that adherence to guideline-recommended therapy, which we work very hard at to try to promulgate in the United States, leads to improved outcomes," Kushner said.
Despite the gains, there is still room for improvement, Mukherjee added. Primary PCI at a catheterization lab is the most effective way to treat STEMI, he said. "Ideally, it should be 100 percent [that get the treatment]," he noted. "The more we do it, the more lives we save."
Patients also need to be aware that they should call 911 if they are experiencing the signs of a heart attack, which can include squeezing chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. Getting treatment quickly can mean the difference between life and death, Kushner said.
"One of the biggest challenges we face is patients may not recognize they are having a heart attack and may not call the appropriate emergency medical services team to get them to the appropriate hospital," Kushner pointed out. "Don't wait. Don't call your neighbor. Call the ambulance."
About 400,000 people in the United States have a STEMI heart attack annually, according to the American Heart Association.
The American Heart Association has more on heart attacks.
SOURCES: Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., chief, cardiology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, El Paso, Texas; Fred Kushner, M.D., co-author, American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association STEMI guidelines; April 27, 2011, Journal of the American Medical Association
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