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How to Survive a Heart Attack

Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

The first few minutes and hours are critical in surviving a heart attack.

Doylestown Hospital has streamlined the process of treating heart attacks. When it comes to patients surviving a heart attack (a measure known as 30-day mortality), Doylestown Hospital ranks #1 in Pennsylvania by Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), making the best care available close to home. This process has to start with you, and the all-important call to 9-1-1.

Whether you or a loved one survives a heart attack depends on what you do during the first few hours.

Why Are the First Few Hours of a Heart Attack Critical?

Time is muscle, as the saying goes. In other words, the sooner a heart attack is treated, the more heart muscle is saved. And the better the outcome for the patient.

According to the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC), 85% of heart damage occurs in the first two hours of a heart attack. One of the goals of this international nonprofit organization is to educate people about "Early Heart Attack Care," or the "beginnings" of a heart attack, when symptoms may be mild but should not be ignored. That is the time to take action and get treatment. More than half of heart attack patients experience some or all heart attack symptoms.

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Pressure, burning, aching or tightness in the chest
  • Nausea
  • Pain that travels down one or both arms
  • Jaw pain
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pressure, squeezing or discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling of fullness

If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away. Even if you're not sure, it's better to call 9-1-1 and rule out a heart attack than to suffer the consequences of untreated heart attack.

Getting to the Hospital on Time

Research shows that in the U.S., only about 55% of chest pain patients are transported to the hospital by Emergency medical services (EMS). Yet calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment for heart attack. EMS staff can begin treatment when they arrive — up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car. EMS staff are also trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped.

In the Doylestown Hospital community, EMS can transmit EKGs from the ambulance to the hospital to confirm a heart attack, setting the process of care in motion even before the patient arrives.

The Lower the Door-to-Balloon Time, the Better

Nearly all (96%) of all heart attack patients brought by EMS to Doylestown Hospital have their EKGs transmitted prior to their arrival, helping shave minutes off the door-to-balloon time. This measurement of quality in treating heart attack, also known as D2BT, is the amount of time between a patient's arrival at the hospital and when the blocked artery is opened through emergency angioplasty in the cath lab.

Doylestown Hospital has reduced door-to-balloon time and improved patient care by:

  • Working closely with regional EMS
  • Alerting the extended team at the hospital to prepare for the patient's arrival with a single call
  • Having a "Fast Track" protocol to send a heart attack patient directly to the cath lab to restore blood flow to the heart.

In 2013, Doylestown Hospital had an average door-to-balloon time of 55 minutes (well below the national goal of 90 minutes). On one occasion at Doylestown Hospital, that time was just 15 minutes.

Did you know? Patients who arrive at Doylestown Hospital in an ambulance that transmits an EKG receive lifesaving care an average of 21 minutes faster than those who come in on their own.

Faster Treatment Means Better Outcomes

When it comes to patients surviving a heart attack (a measure known as 30-day mortality), Doylestown Hospital ranks #1 in Pennsylvania and #6 in the nation (CMS). Doylestown Hospital has ranked in the top six in the nation three years in a row. Teamwork and a carefully orchestrated process of care make this possible.

Remember : Calling 911 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving treatment

"We urge anyone with heart attack symptoms to call 9-1-1 immediately to start the process of receiving life-saving care," says Elaine Schultheiss, coordinator of the Doylestown Hospital Chest Pain Center. "Doylestown Hospital works closely with emergency services personnel to prepare for the heart attack patient even before their arrival at the hospital. The team approach ensures that all heart attack patients receive the care they need as soon as possible."

Chest Pain Center Accreditation

Earlier this summer, Doylestown Hospital again received Chest Pain Center Accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC). The Woodall Chest Pain Center of Doylestown Hospital first received accreditation just after Doylestown's new Emergency Department opened in 2010.

Hospitals with SCPC accreditation have achieved a higher level of expertise in dealing with patients who arrive with symptoms of a heart attack. For patients, knowing the symptoms and knowing when to call for help can save your life.

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