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Heart Attacks in Hospital More Deadly at Night, on Weekends
Date:2/19/2008

Study suggests staffing, systemic issues behind difference in mortality rates

TUESDAY, Feb. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital patients who have the misfortune of suffering cardiac arrest at night or on the weekend are less likely to survive than those who have a heart attack during weekdays or weekday evenings, new research finds.

Although the study was not set up to pinpoint exactly why this is happening, it's likely that different staffing patterns, access to procedures, and other systemic issues may explain the difference in outcomes.

"Hospitals simply don't work the same at night as they do during the day," explained study author Dr. Mary Ann Peberdy, an associate professor of internal medicine and emergency medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. "There is enough data out there to suggest that this may be a process issue that is at least contributing, and probably contributing substantially."

The immediate cause of poor survival on nights and weekends may be one of timing: either there is a delay getting critical procedures or a delay in diagnosing the cardiac arrest in the first place.

"We're literally talking about a difference in seconds, which makes a significant impact," said Beth Mancini, associate dean of Undergraduate Nursing Programs at the University of Texas at Arlington. "It's time for hospitals to look critically at their processes."

Mancini is one of the "mothers" of the database used in this study, which is published in the Feb. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to the Institute of Medicine, up to 98,000 preventable in-hospital deaths occur every year in the United States, and the rate of medical errors is higher at night).

Previous, smaller studies have reported that heart attacks treated on a Saturday or Sunday are more deadly than those attended to during the week. Most of those had less tha
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