ThedaCare speeds up care time for heart attack patients

The experts say the longer a patient goes without treatment, permanent heart damage or death could result.

Speed is the key when treating a heart attack victim, said Dr. Khaldoon Alaswad, a cardiologist at ThedaCare’s Appleton Medical Center.

“(For) every minute that passes … a person’s chances of dying increases 3 percent,” said Alaswad…..

Last Tuesday, Gold Cross Ambulance Service, a co-venture between Affinity Health System and ThedaCare, tested its new Field STEMI protocol, which has a goal of getting patients into surgery faster.

STEMI, a type of heart attack, is ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction. A STEMI patient requires quick treatment, including cardiac catheterization and balloon angioplasty to open a blocked vessel and get blood flowing to the heart.

“The heart muscle doesn’t have the luxury of being cut off from blood,” Khaldoon said. “The sooner we can get an artery opened back up, the better we’re able to save the heart muscle.”

The Field STEMI is a version of the Code STEMI, the process that begins once a suspected heart attack patient arrives at a hospital emergency department. The new process allows Gold Cross paramedics to bypass the emergency department and take patients directly to a hospital cardiac catheterization lab.

Eliminating the emergency department step can save up to 10 minutes in care delivery time, said Julie Thompson, ThedaCare’s STEMI and EMS coordinator.

All 90 Gold Cross paramedics are completing special training for the new protocol, she said. The paramedics, who are trained to use and interpret an electrocardiograph in the field, will determine if someone is having a STEMI heart attack, administer clot-busting drugs if appropriate and call ThedaCare’s centralized dispatch to start the STEMI process.

ThedaCare handled 70 STEMI cases in 2009, Thompson said.

“The goal is faster response,” Thompson said. “Now that the paramedic can make the call in the field, we can activate our cardio team in advance at the hospital.”