Topeka (WIBW) - When it comes to a heart attack, the saying goes that time is muscle.
The longer you wait for treatment, the more your heart muscle will be damaged from a lack of blood flow. In the worst case, it leads to death.
Hospitals are constantly working to speed up getting the arteries back open. They call it door to balloon time.
Stormont-Vail HealthCare's administrative director of cardiovascular services, Joe Hopeck, explains that it's the time period from when a patient enters the emergency department doors to the time the definitive treatment is completed. In most instances, he says, that is inflation of a coronary balloon or stent placement.
The national guideline is for that time to be 90 minutes. Hopeck says the time at Stormont is just over 60 minutes.
He says a team effort among all involved with emergency services is a big reason. It led to placement of equipment to do EKG's on AMR ambulances. A heart attack patient can have an EKG done and transmitted to the hospital while they're en route. Hopeck says emergency room doctors and staff will look at it, make the diagnosis, decide on a treatment and have the team ready and waiting when the patient comes through the door. In some cases, they may even bypass the ER and go straight to the cardiac catherization lab.
Hopeck says Stormont reviewed heart attack patients from the first four months of this year who arrived via AMR and found they had a median door to balloon time of just 33 minutes.
Bringing down time to treatment also means educating patients to come in at the first sign of symptoms. Nationally, the average person waits two and a half hours. Hopek says whittling down how long they wait is a good opportunity to reduce morbidity and mortality.
Hopeck says Stormont is also working on a regional basis because most small town rural hospitals aren't equipped to do artery-opening procedures at their facilities. He says they're developing partnerships to review protocols and coordinate transporting those patients more quickly.