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Experts Call for Speedier Heart Care

Hospital Care Within 90 Minutes of Arrival Cuts Risk of Heart Attack Death
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Nov. 13, 2006 - Speedier hospital treatment for heart attack victims could save lives, the American Heart Association (AHA) said today as it announced a program to speed up care.

Only about a third of those who suffer major heart attacks are being treated quickly enough, says the AHA. The campaign launched by the AHA and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) is designed to fix that problem.

Studies show that treatments like angioplasty plus a stent to prop open blocked arteries can cut the risk of dying by 40%. However, that holds true only if the procedure is done within 90 minutes of a patient's arrival at the hospital. If care is delayed even half an hour longer, the risk of dying shoots up about 40%.

"It's all about saving lives," says Steven Nissen, MD, a cardiologist at The Cleveland Clinic and president of the ACC.

The program, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was announced here at the annual AHA meeting. It was simultaneously posted online by The New England Journal of Medicine.

Good Care=Rapid Care

The program consists of six steps aimed at getting people who suffer a common type of heart attack quicker treatment once they arrive at a hospital.

The average time between when a person comes in the hospital door and when he has angioplasty is currently 104 minutes, according to Elizabeth H. Bradley, PhD, of Yale University School of Medicine, who helped design the project.

"The variation between the fastest and slowest hospital in the U.S. is 20 minutes. That's huge." she says.

It doesn't matter if you have the best doctors, Bradley tells WebMD. It depends on how the system works, she says.

People interested in finding out the response times of hospitals in their area can go to www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

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