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University Hospital Shaves Time Off Cardiac Care March 25, 2010

For more information, contact Erica C. Cline at 706/825-2225

University Hospital Shaves Time Off Cardiac Care

Time is muscle.

It’s short, but to the point. When a person is having a heart attack, the faster they get help, the more likely they are to avoid death or severe disability.

That’s why University Hospital is continually working to shave minutes and even seconds off its cardiac response time, and two new projects are helping make that happen.

In mid-January, University launched its LifeNet program with Gold Cross ambulance service in Richmond, Columbia and Jefferson counties.

The system gives paramedics the ability to perform 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs) while on a call and transmit the information directly to University Hospital’s Emergency Department. From that transmission, a physician can determine if a patient is suffering a heart attack and immediately launch preparations for receiving and treating the patient the moment they arrive at the hospital.

“If you have the ECG done before getting to the hospital, the physician can make a preliminary diagnosis while the patient is enroute,” said Ward Rogers, M.D., a cardiologist who practices at University Hospital. “You can then immediately call the cath lab, expedite the patient’s treatment and open up the artery quicker, which saves heart muscle.”

Peggy Bobo, University Hospital’s Emergency Department nurse manager, said the department is always looking for ways to more quickly diagnose and treat cardiac patients.

The national standard for door-to-balloon times, or the time it takes a patient to receive cardiac intervention from the moment they enter the hospital, is 90 minutes. University – a nationally accredited Chest Pain Center – wants it done even faster.

“For the Emergency Department, we have a designated nurse who drills down on every (STEMI, or severe heart attack) to ensure we get our times,” she said. “If it takes five minutes to get an ECG, we look at one-minute intervals to see what could have been done to improve that time.”

Another way University is working to save heart muscle is with its new helipad, which is situated directly in front of the entrance to the Emergency Department.

The helipad will primarily be used to transport cardiac patients from outlying hospitals to University for treatment.

Dan Gates, president of AirMed, said the new helipad will be a tremendous improvement over the old system, which included landing at Daniel Field and then transporting by ambulance.

“From Jefferson County Hospital, it’s a 45-minute to an hour drive with the ambulance,” he said. “In the helicopter, it’s a 12-minute flight. That piece of the puzzle is strengthened greatly.”

The AirMed fleet also has the advantage of being staffed by a dedicated registered nurse as well as an EMT.

“The level of care is higher on the helicopter than you would find on the ambulance,” Mr. Gates said. “We’re better staffed and have more medications to help stabilize patients before they get to the hospital.”

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