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Most Heart Attack Patients Who Need Angioplasty Quickly Get It: Study

MONDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthDay News) -- More than 90 percent of U.S. heart attack patients who required emergency angioplasty to open blocked coronary arteries received the treatment within the recommended time in 2010, a new study finds.

Just five years earlier, the rate was 44 percent.

Angioplasty -- in which a thin, balloon-tipped catheter is inserted into the blocked blood vessel to restore blood flow -- needs to be performed as quickly as possible on these patients, preferably within 90 minutes of hospital arrival, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

In this study, researchers analyzed data on more than 300,000 heart attack patients who underwent emergency angioplasty between January of 2005 and October of 2010.

In 2010, 91 percent of the patients were treated within 90 minutes of arrival at the hospital, compared with 44 percent in 2005. Seventy percent of patients were treated within 75 minutes in 2010, compared with 27 percent in 2005.

The median time from hospital admission to emergency angioplasty fell from 96 minutes to 64 minutes over the study period.

The findings are published Aug. 22 in the journal Circulation.

The improvement is the result of a nationwide effort between federal agencies, health care organizations and health care providers to improve heart attack care and outcome, said study author Dr. Harlan M. Krumholz, a professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine.

"Everybody had to improve to get a national report card like this," Krumholz said in a news release. "This remarkable improvement demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together and is a tribute to the doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals that applied the information from the research studies about how best to deliver care to ensure that patients are treated rapidly."

One cardiologist said he was impressed by the report.

"This remarkable study shows a dramatic improvement in the delivery of high quality health care on a nationwide basis for a specific, very serious acute medical condition," said Dr. James Slater, director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. He noted that getting patients to care quickly is "a complicated process of opening the cardiac cath lab and coordinating swift and efficient interactions between the emergency room and interventional cardiology doctors and staff."

"The most important outcome of this study, although not specifically measured, is that these systematic improvements resulted in the lives of many thousands of Americans being saved, including a substantial number who will be able to return to productive activity," Slater added.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about coronary angioplasty.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCES: James Slater, M.D., director, Cardiac Catheterization Lab, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City; Circulation, news release, Aug. 22, 2011

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