How to Stop a Heart Attack in its Tracks

News Archive August 25, 2009

How to Stop a Heart Attack in its Tracks

Loyola Performing Life-Saving Emergency Angioplasties in Less than One Hour
MAYWOOD -- Since Loyola University Hospital launched its Heart Attack Rapid Response Team (HARRT) last spring, patients have been receiving emergency balloon angioplasties as fast as 28 minutes after arriving in the emergency room. In April, Loyola became the first hospital in Illinois to staff an interventional cardiologist and other members of the cardiac catheterization team 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Most hospitals do not have such teams on site during nights and weekends. Precious time is lost when interventional cardiologists, nurses and technicians have to be called in from home -- especially in bad weather. A task force of the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association recommends that patients undergoing heart attacks receive balloon angioplasties as soon as possible or within 90 minutes of arriving at the hospital -- known as the "door-to-balloon" time. Since HARRT was launched, Loyola has far exceeded that standard, with a median door-to-balloon time of just 50 minutes. All patients received angioplasties within 90 minutes, and 73 percent within 60 minutes. Times are continuing to improve, and Loyola is approaching its goal of performing all emergency angioplasties within 60 minutes, said Dr. Fred Leya, medical director of the cardiac catheterization lab. "By treating patients within the Golden Hour of opportunity, we can save more lives," Leya said. On a recent Saturday, for example, James McClain of Bellwood arrived at Loyola's emergency room at 9:41 p.m. with shooting pains in his arm and chest. A branch of his left coronary artery was 100 percent blocked. Such heart attacks can be fatal, and usually cause significant heart damage if the patient survives. McClain, 53, was quickly wheeled to the cardiac catheterization lab. Interventional cardiologist Dr. Bruce Lewis, who was on overnight call at the hospital, guided a catheter to McClain's heart. Lewis inflated a balloon at the tip of the catheter to open the artery, and placed a stent to keep the artery open. During a heart attack, a blockage in an artery stops blood flow. Heart muscle begins to die due to lack of blood and oxygen. But a balloon angioplasty, if done in time, can stop a heart attack in its tracks by restoring blood flow. Because McClain's angioplasty was performed so quickly, he suffered virtually no heart damage. He went home after two days, and returned to his job in a plastics factory in three weeks. "I feel better now than I did before," he said. When Loyola launched the HARRT program, doctors believed that having a cath lab team on site 24/7 was the best way to improve its emergency angioplasty times, said Dr. Mark Cichon, director of emergency medical services. "Now we have the data to prove it," Cichon said.
Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.
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