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Heart Attack Victims Face Greater Risk of Dying When Ambulances Are Diverted
Date:6/12/2011

SUNDAY, June 12 (HealthDay News) -- Heart attack patients whose ambulances are diverted from the nearest ER to another one further away are at greater risk of dying -- not just soon after the heart attack, but for up to a year after the intervention, a new study finds.

Researchers examined data from 13,860 Medicare patients who were admitted to emergency departments for heart attack at hospitals in four California counties (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara) between 2000 and 2005. Ambulance traffic was diverted from the nearest emergency department to another hospital on an average of 7.9 hours out of 24 hours.

Compared to patients who received care at the nearest hospital, those whose nearest emergency department were diverting ambulances for 12 hours or more had higher death rates after 30 days (19 percent vs. 15 percent), 90 days (26 percent vs. 22 percent), 9 months (33 percent vs. 28 percent), and one year (35 percent vs. 29 percent).

The researchers also found differences in treatment patterns once patients were admitted to the emergency department. Catheterization rates were 49 percent for patients who weren't diverted and 42 percent for those whose nearest emergency department was sending ambulances to a hospital further away for 12 hours or more.

Rates of percutaneous coronary interventions such as balloon angioplasty or stent placement was 31 percent for patients who weren't diverted and 24 percent for patients who were diverted during a 12-hour period or more.

The study appears online and in the June 15 print issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and will be presented at an AcademyHealth meeting.

"These findings point to the need for more targeted interventions to appropriately distribute system-level resources in such a way to decrease crowding and diversion, so that patients with time-sensitive conditions such as [heart attack] are not adv
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