Faster Heart Attack Care Led to Faster Return to Work

Heart attack patients who had a delay in treatment were slow to return to work and retired earlier

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) When a person has a heart attack, fast treatment is key to a fast recovery. A delay in restoring blood flow to arteries may mean a slow return back to normal activities, including work.

A heart attack can be categorized as STEMI (ST-elevation myocardial infarction, seen on an electrocardiogram) when a blood clot suddenly forms in a coronary artery. These attacks substantially raise the risk of death and disability and demand a quick response.

Recent research found that STEMI patients who underwent delays in emergency medical service of more than two hours returned to work later and retired earlier compared to those who got faster treatment.

"Get treatment fast at the first sign of a heart attack."

Kristina Laut, a PhD student at the Faculty of Health at Aarhus University in Denmark, led this investigation of 4,061 patients under 67 years old admitted to the hospital with STEMI.

The researchers referred to the Danish National Register on Public Transfer Payments for details on work outcomes. Patients had to be working full- or part-time to be included in the study.

Laut and colleagues were interested in finding out how a system delay in treatment might influence a patient’s future work history. Here, a system delay was defined as the time from emergency medical service call to reperfusion with primary angioplasty. Reperfusion is a restoration of blood flow through a clogged artery, and primary angioplasty is a common procedure for accomplishing this.

Angioplasty requires inserting a catheter into the groin or wrist and guiding it through an artery to the blockage. A small balloon at the tip of the catheter inflates, opens the artery and a stent (mesh tube) is placed to keep the artery open.

The investigators noted that a delay exceeding 120 minutes was associated with a postponed return to work.

While about nine out of 10 patients in the study had returned to work after four years of follow-up, 14 percent went back to work later because of a system delay, according to the authors of this study.

After eight years, 29 percent of the study group had retired, and the researchers observed a 21 percent increase in the retirement rate among those patients who had dealt with a long system delay.

"Our results show that system delay is an important performance measure in treating patients with STEMI,” said Laut in a press release.

“A lot can be done within healthcare systems to make sure STEMI patients get quick access to PPCI [primary percutaneous coronary intervention, commonly known as coronary angioplasty], such as optimizing pre-hospital diagnosis. Patients also need to react quickly to their symptoms and call an ambulance," Laut said.

She added, "There is a heavy economic burden for society if patients don't return to work after a heart attack. Investing in healthcare infrastructure and systems is value for money compared to the cost of people losing their ability to work."

This study was presented at the Acute Cardiac Care Congress 2013, the annual meeting of the Acute Cardiovascular Care Association (ACCA) of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) held October 12-14 in Madrid, Spain.

Review Date: 
October 14, 2013
Last Updated:
October 14, 2013