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Speed Not Always of the Essence With Heart Cases in ER
Date:11/10/2008

Study found some low-risk patients can wait for tests

MONDAY, Nov. 10 (HealthDay News) -- No one doubts the need to rush to the hospital if someone is having a heart attack or even chest pains, but do doctors and nurses need to keep rushing once the person has been admitted?

New research suggests the answer is usually, "yes," but not always.

"The message to patients is to move as soon as possible to get into the hospital," Dr. Deepak Bhatt, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said during a Monday news conference at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions in New Orleans. "This is a message to doctors and the health-care system. Once the patient is already hospitalized, do you need to rush them off to the cath lab within the next 24 hours, say, in the middle of the night on a weekend, or could you wait a day or two, which would be more convenient to the health-care system? The answer, at least in high-risk patients, was to go early."

"The key message from this study, in the majority of patients, there is no harm or no benefit of going early versus delayed," added study author Dr. Shamir Mehta, director of interventional cardiology at Hamilton Health Sciences Corp. and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. "But risk stratification is key if the patient is at high risk. Our data do suggest that they benefit from early intervention. Exactly how risk stratification is used is subject to some debate."

Some had feared that going to the cath lab earlier rather than later might actually involve an "early hazard," meaning it might be dangerous, and that a "cooling-off" period with medical therapy might be advantageous, Bhatt said.

More than 3,000 patients with either a mild heart attack or unstable angina at 100 medical centers in various countries were randomized (after receiving routine therapy) to have a coronary angiography
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