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Each year, about 1.1 million people in the United States have heart attacks. Most patients survive, if they are treated as soon as possible, usually no later than within the first 4-6 hours of a heart attack. Every moment is critical, because the earlier a patient can be treated, the more heart muscle can be saved. Outcomes improve even more when heart attack patients are taken to hospitals like FMH that offer emergency cardiac catheterization and angioplasty programs.

And here's even better news. Now, thanks to a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation, patients suffering heart attacks can get treatment even faster with the help of a system called LifeNet.

David Chisholm explains the technology behind the
LifeNet system to George and Bettie Delaplaine of
the Delaplaine Foundation.

LifeNet is a system that transmits a patient's electrocardiogram, or EKG, from the ambulance to the FMH Emergency Department. If doctors determine from the EKG that the patient is an angioplasty candidate, they can immediately page the FMH Interventional Cardiology and Catheterization teams, reducing wait time once the patient arrives.

According to Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Williams (PDF), the recommended "door-to-balloon time," or the time between arrival in the ED and the inflation of a balloon in the coronary artery of the heart, should not exceed 90 minutes. In communities without a hospital that can do angioplasties, the patient is given a "clot busting" drug and taken by ambulance to a facility that can perform the procedure. In those cases, door-to-balloon time is closer to 3 hours.

At FMH, door to balloon times are closer to 70 minutes, which is far better than the national average and the fastest average time in the state of Maryland

"LifeNet allows us to activate our heart teams earlier, shaving precious minutes off the time it takes to open a blocked coronary artery," said FMH Medical Director of Interventional Cardiology, Dr. David Brill (PDF), FACC, FSCAI. "The ability of this technology to help save heart muscle can't be overestimated."



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