Too Many Heart Attack Victims Don't Call 911
WebMD News Archive
The most troubling finding was that using emergency medical services was
lower among people who called their doctors about their symptoms. Mann thinks
it's likely these people were falsely reassured. It may be that "the phone
call with the physician is reducing their anxiety to the point that they now
can drive themselves. Or, the other option is that the physicians feel ...
[that] they're well-versed in the patient's history, and they're saying, 'This
is your third angina [chest pain] attack. Why don't you have your wife drive
you in,'" Mann says. "I don't know which of those [possibilities] is
true, but the cold hard facts are that 83% who called their doctor and ended up
having a heart attack didn't call 911."
He and his colleagues are planning another survey that will ask patients
more specific questions about phone calls with their doctors.
The current study demonstrates that the public must be educated about when
and how to seek treatment, according to David A. Meyerson, MD, a cardiologist
at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and a spokesman for the American
Heart Association (AHA). "The AHA would like people to understand that
there are perhaps 1.2 million heart attacks occurring in the U.S. each year,
and only 950,000 make it to the hospital. So 250,000 are dying before they get
[there]." The earlier you get treatment, the more likely you will avoid
damage, he says.
"People are embarrassed," Meyerson says. "They don't want to
come to the emergency room complaining of something and find it to be
indigestion. They're afraid they made the wrong decision. If the symptom[s] ...
look like it is cardiac-related, we should urge them to seek early
Prompt treatment also may make a dent in the in-hospital deaths. "We now
have the ability to turn off a heart attack in midstream with clot-dissolving
medications or angioplasty," which involves using a tiny balloon that is
inflated to flatten the clot in the clogged vessel. These treatments can
preserve heart muscle function, preventing heart failure and reducing deaths,