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Hospitals Fail To Meet Heart Attack Care Guidelines

Almost two-thirds of U.S. hospitals fail to treat heart attack patients quickly enough to meet life-saving scientific guidelines, according to new research released earlier this week

American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines say that a balloon angioplasty – a procedure used to open blocked arteries – should be performed within 90 minutes of the patient’s arrival. This period is commonly referred to as door-to-balloon time, or D2B.

What the Research Reveals

However, research sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute revealed that only about one-third of heart attack patients receive an angioplasty within the 90 minute D2B window.

“Even among the better hospitals, only a few hospitals routinely meet the recommended guidelines,” said Yale cardiologist and lead researcher of the study, Dr. Harlan Krumholz.

After the 90 minute D2B window, a heart attack patient’s risk of death increases by more than 40 percent. Of the 365 participating hospitals, 48 percent had a D2B time of 91 to 120 minutes, 13 percent came in between 121 and 150, and four percent topped 150 minutes.

Campaign for Change

Krumholz said that hospitals could save as many as 1,000 lives a year by meeting the AHA and ACC guidelines. Approximately 200,000 Americans suffer heart attacks annually that can be treated with a balloon angioplasty. Nearly 10,000 of these patients end up dying in the hospital.

The study, which will appear in the November 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, was undertaken to help health officials learn where performance needs to be improved.

“We’re losing too many lives,” said cardiologist and president of the ACC, Dr. Steven Nissen.

As a result of the findings, a new campaign is being launched to provide hospitals with ways to improve their D2B time. Numerous hospitals, insurance companies, and government agencies have agreed to support the campaign.

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