(RxWiki News) Less than 10 percent of heart attack patients requiring a life-saving emergency procedure are being transferred to larger hospitals within the recommended 30 minutes.
The first national study of "door-in door-out" time for patients transferred for angioplasty found that the delays could be increasing the risk of death for such patients.
"Immediately go to the hospital if you suspect a heart attack."
Jeph Herrin, lead author and an assistant adjunct professor of cardiology at Yale School of Medicine, said the transfer delays are causing a large and avoidable increase in the risk of death for these patients. He noted that previous studies have shown that delays of even minutes in receiving angioplasty increases the risk of dying for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) patients.
A rapid response to this type of heart attack is critical since it is prompted by complete blockage of the blood supply to the heart. Angioplasty should be performed on these patients quickly, but smaller hospitals often need to transfer patients because they do not have the staff or facilities to perform the procedures.
Guidelines suggest that STEMI patients should be transferred for angioplasty within 30 minutes of arriving at the hospital. Thousands of STEMI patients are delayed more than an hour from what is recommended, Herrin said.
Researchers analyzed nationwide data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on all heart attack patients with STEMI transferred for angioplasty during 2009. They reviewed almost 14,000 heart attack patients, including both Medicare and non-Medicare patients.
They found that less than 10 percent of patients were transferred within the recommended time, and a third of patients were delayed by 90 minutes or more before being transferred.
The survey was published in the Nov. 28 issue of journal Archives of Internal Medicine.