Home HEALTH HEALTH CHECK The Race to Beat a Heart Attack

The Race to Beat a Heart Attack


90 Minutes To Life or Death

nol-dec07_medres_page_16_image_0002.jpgIn 90 minutes you can cook dinner, get a good workout, or watch a movie. An hour and a half can also mean the difference between life and death when suffering a heart attack.

Ochsner Medical Center has succeed in the most ambitious heart attack project ever undertaken; they have reduced the time it takes for a patient entering the ER to receive balloon angioplasty to reopen clogged arteries. Ochsner’s “door-to-balloon” time is less than 90 minutes.

Balloon Angioplasty
Balloon angioplasty is a procedure that reopens clogged arteries by inflating a tiny balloon at the site of the blockage. Studies show this is the single best way to treat a severe heart attack if performed immediately.

“The 90 minute benchmark is critical as it can cut a patient’s risk of dying by 40%, but only if it’s done within 90 minutes of the patient’s arrival at the hospital,” explains Dr. John Reilly, Associate Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Ochsner.

According to a November 2006 study, if the balloon procedure is delayed three to 28 days after a heart attack, the procedure will not reduce the chances of death or a second heart attack over the next four years.

Warning Signs
A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced or stopped due to a blocked artery, most often with plaque. Over 250,000 people a year have heart attacks, of those, about 10,000 die in hospitals each year.

Often people wait too long before getting help. Below are warning signs for immediate attention:

  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort: In other areas of the upper body: including the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: May occur with or without chest discomfort.
  • Sudden flu-like symptoms: Cold sweat, upset stomach, nausea or light-headedness.

Door-To-Balloon Time

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recently ranked U.S. hospitals according to their “door-toballoon” time. Ochsner Medical Center met these strict criteria, providing emergency care quickly enough to save lives due to heart attacks. For a complete list, visit:

www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov or www.jointcommission.com.