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Study: Heart attack deaths unchanged despite quicker treatment
November 8th, 2010
04:25 PM ET

Study: Heart attack deaths unchanged despite quicker treatment

Efforts to improve the speed at which heart attack patients get life-saving treatment have worked, says a new study, but mortality rates have not changed.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the medical records of more than 8,000 heart attack patients, and found that despite a marked decrease in "door-to-balloon time," patients are still dying at the same rate.

"We have been working diligently to reduce door to balloon time – or the time from when a patient hits the [hospital] door with a heart attack until we get their artery open with a balloon angioplasty," said Dr. Hitinder Gurm, an interventional cardiologist at the University of Michigan, and the lead study author. "The thought was, the more we reduce this time, the more lives we save."

And in Michigan, that time has been reduced dramatically.  According to the report, what took an average of 113 minutes in 2003, fell to 76 minutes in 2008 – well below the national guideline of a 90-minute door-to-balloon time.

So why no corresponding decrease in mortality rates?  Gurm says door-to-balloon time may not be the whole picture.

"What matters is the amount of time from when the artery gets [blocked], until the time it gets opened," he said. "We need to recognize there's still a delay from the time symptoms start until patients even decide to come into the hospital in the first place."

And it is this "symptom-to-door" time where he believes future efforts should be focused.

"We need to educate our patients. Anytime you have chest pain, get to the hospital, and don't sit at home wishing it away," he said.


soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Karen

    "We need to educate our patients. Anytime you have chest pain, get to the hospital, and don't sit at home wishing it away," he said.

    Well maybe we need to educate people the right way to eat so they don't need to go to the hospital in the first place. This video http://bit.ly/b16dwQ talks about the cholesterol myth and how atherosclerosis and thrombosis come into existence. It also presents controversial hypotheses about how to prevent and force back these diseases.

    November 9, 2010 at 03:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Deborah

    I agree with future efforts should be focused on "symptom-to-door" time, however, I think the focus should be education to the public regarding inappropriate use of EMS for non emergencies so EMS is available to transport the patient to “the door.”

    November 9, 2010 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Colleen

    Another key factor is the role of the EMS and Paramedics. If they are able to interpret 12-Lead EKG’s, then they can initiate a “pre-hospital alert.” Unfortunately, relevant training for paramedics is hard to come by. One proven source of training for first responders can be found at http://www.EmsEkg.com.

    November 9, 2010 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Angela

    November is Awareness Month for the silent killer Cancer of the Pancreas yet I fail to hear any of the media or doctors talk about it. It is time the medical profession and the public becomes more knowledgeable about it.
    Research is 20 years behind for Pancreas Cancer compared to Breast Cancer and yet there is so much hype about breast cancer and nil for this devastating disease. I went to different doctors with all the symptoms but they were completely ignorant and never bothered to have a simple test to check. If it was caught in time when I first started seeing doctors it would not have metastasized to my lymph nodes. It is to late for me but I am sure there are many lives that could be saved if the Media stepped up to the plate. It is not a disease strictly caused by smoking and alcohol abuse that so many doctors and people believe. There is no cure and no survivors.

    November 10, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • john

      you are right about breast cancer, and the main reason it gets the most hype is that it is a politicized disease. yes, the number of people who get it is higher than pancreatic cancer, but it also affects an area integral to women's self identity. as a physician, i personally do not like the idea of politicizing a disease (whether it is AIDS, breast cancer, or prostate cancer etc) because to those who are stricken, because all diseases should be handled with the same concerns from the medical field. none is more important than the other...

      November 11, 2010 at 14:22 | Report abuse |
  5. EKOLE GILLIAN ALOBWEDE NGOLE EPIE

    hi to the cnn medical team who sacrificed alot to be in Haiti during the earth quake,i watched how they worked round to clock to save lives.till date i still feel guilty not being able to help,i just crowded my mind with the aftermath scenes.Again i say thank you to the cnn medical team.Gillian from Cameroon

    November 14, 2010 at 17:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.