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Heart Disease Health Center

Quicker Angioplasty Times for Heart Attack Patients

Time to Treatment Has Dropped 32 Minutes in Just 5 Years, Study Finds
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 22, 2011 -- More than 90% of patients who have a heart attack and need an emergency treatment to open the artery now have it within the recommended 90 minutes after they get to the hospital, new research finds.

Some patients get the treatment even more quickly, says researcher Harlan M. Krumholz, MD, the Harold H. Hines Jr. Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University School of Medicine. In a national analysis, his team looked at how quickly the treatment, angioplasty, was done in 2010, compared to 2005.

"The median time (half longer, half less) went from 96 minutes to 64," Krumholz tells WebMD. "I think it's breathtaking."

In 2005, 44% of heart attack patients who needed angioplasty were treated within the 90-minute window. In 2010, 91% were, the researchers found.

"This is outstanding news," says P.K. Shah, MD, director of cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was not involved in the study but reviewed the findings.

The study is published in Circulation:Journal of the American Heart Association.

Heart Attack Patients and Angioplasty

During angioplasty, the blocked artery is opened. The doctor passes a thin balloon-tipped tube into the vessel. The balloon is inflated, restoring blood flow, and then withdrawn. In some cases, a stent will be put in to keep the vessel open.

Even though doctors knew speed was important, only one-third of patients who needed angioplasty got it within 90 minutes in 2002. Some had to wait more than two hours after getting to the hospital.

That triggered the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to begin reporting publicly the percentage of patients who were treated within the recommended window.

Soon after, national efforts were launched by organizations, including the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, to improve treatment times.

Doctors call the window the "door-to-balloon time."

Heart Patients and Angioplasty: Study

Krumholz and his colleagues analyzed nationwide hospital data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. It includes more than 300,000 patients. They had emergency angioplasty from Jan. 1, 2005, through Sept. 30, 2010, including some not covered by Medicare.

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