Physicians, Hospitals Across Central Nebraska Working Together to Improve Heart Attack Care
Original Release Date: February 8, 2012 KEARNEY - Let's say you experience a sudden, crushing pain in your chest, accompanied by shortness of breath and a cold sweat. Before you write it off as indigestion from too much spicy food, consider that 1.5 million heart attacks occur in the United States each year and that more than half a million people die from them. Consider also that fast, appropriate medical attention for a heart attack not only saves lives, it also has a positive effect in preserving heart muscle and function.
In February, American Heart Month, the cardiology staff at Good Samaritan Hospital will be working together with physicians, physician assistants and nurses at Critical Access Hospitals across Nebraska. The goal is to implement best-practice procedures for heart care patients, especially those who are transferred to another hospital for a higher level of care. The procedures are called "Get with the Guidelines" and were developed by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.
"Early recognition of heart attack symptoms leads to earlier intervention and better outcomes," said Shannon Hoos-Thompson, M.D., a cardiologist in Kearney. "Coordination between local physicians and hospitals and regional hospitals and specialists in cardiac care is essential for the best patient care during acute coronary events."
Helping health professionals correctly assess each patient's risk is a key aspect of the seminar. It is crucial that the risk assessment be done early, quickly and accurately to determine the appropriate treatment.
"It’s important that patients call 9-1-1 or go to the closest possible hospital for care if they think they may be having a heart attack," said Panayotis Efstratiou, M.D., an interventional cardiologist on the medical staff at Good Samaritan Hospital. "When someone arrives in the emergency room with heart attack symptoms, we have to be able to quickly identify Acute Coronary Syndrome patients with the highest risk so we can provide pharmaceutical and, if necessary, early interventional therapy right away to restore circulation."
A heart attack or myocardial infarction occurs when circulation of blood to the heart muscle is stopped by a blockage in an artery; without blood circulation, the heart tissue dies.
Because of the urgency for cardiac patients to receive appropriate care, the seminar will provide the same guidelines to all healthcare practitioners who attend, giving a cohesive and more streamlined treatment plan for cardiac patients no matter which hospital they go to when they experience chest pain.
"When there's blockage in an artery, the most important thing is to restore circulation to the heart just as quickly as is humanly possible," said Hoos-Thompson. "The simple truth is 'time is muscle' when we are talking about a heart attack. That means the faster you can clear that blockage, the more heart muscle you'll save."
In hospitals such as Good Samaritan that has interventional cardiologists and a catheterization lab readily available around the clock, a balloon angioplasty and/or the insertion of a stent is often the preferred method to treat a blockage. However, in rural hospitals and health clinics, physicians will most often administer a powerful drug to dissolve the clot.
"We want to ensure that patients - no matter where they live - receive the best and most appropriate level of care as possible," said Efstratiou. "Our objective is to create a regional response system of coordinated cardiac care to ensure rural patients get the care they need as quickly as possible. By following the guidelines provided by the American Heart Association, health professionals can improve outcomes for everyone in Nebraska. Our goal at Good Samaritan Hospital is to help everyone 'Get with the Guidelines.'"