Fast response to heart attacks

During a heart attack, lost time means lost heart muscle. Every minute is crucial to restoring blood flow to the blocked artery.

Jon Robken, MD

Cardiologist Jon Robken, M.D., in the Genesis
Cardiac Catheterization Lab.

The heart experts at Genesis have a track record of success and consistently respond to heart attacks far faster than the national standard of care.

National guidelines give doctors a 90-minute window from when a patient arrives at the hospital to the time a balloon is inserted into the blocked artery during angioplasty and blood flow is restored.

This is called door-to-balloon time -- the speed in which a hospital can open the blocked artery of a patient in the midst of the most serious kind of heart attack, called a myocardial infarction with ST-segment elevation (STEMI).

Thanks to a national effort to speed cardiac care, door-to-balloon times across the nation have fallen substantially since 2005. The best hospitals, including Genesis, now regularly achieve door-to-balloon times within 60 minutes and this may eventually become the new standard.

Genesis response times

In calendar year 2013, Genesis, Davenport achieved door-to-balloon times of 90 minutes or less 98.3 percent of the time. The average time was 43 minutes.

In 2012, Genesis, Davenport achieved door-to-balloon times of 90 minutes or less 98.5 percent of the time. The average time was 53 minutes.

In 2011, the 90-minute door-to-balloon time was met 81.2 percent of the time. In that year, the average time was 64 minutes.

Heart attack alert

The clock begins ticking when the patient enters the door of the Genesis Emergency Department to the time the blocked artery is opened with balloon angioplasty in the Genesis Catheterization Lab. It’s an effort that takes teamwork, speed and precision by the heart and emergency experts.

“Door-to-balloon time is important because we know the faster we’re able to re-establish blood flow to a blocked artery, the better the outcome for the patient. The less heart damage and the lower mortality we have,” says Julie Marconi, Heart and Vascular Director at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport. “By intervening quickly, we can rescue the heart muscle."

In 2004, Genesis was at the forefront by instituting a heart attack alert system as unfolding research showed the critical importance of rapidly opening the artery during an ST-elevation myocardial infarction. Today, heart attack alerts are also conducted at Genesis Medical Center’s Silvis and DeWitt campuses.

Once an emergency physician determines a heart attack is in progress, the heart attack alert goes out to everyone involved in the patient’s care.

It’s quite an orchestration as various health care disciplines -- from paramedics in the field to the Emergency Department staff to the Cath Lab team -- respond.

“It means gathering information and tests; assembling staff; transporting the patient to the Cath Lab; and, getting him or her on the table before beginning the catheterization,” Marconi says. “It requires a diagnostic angiogram to pinpoint the blockage; then passing a wire across the blockage; and, inserting a balloon inside a tiny artery of the heart to restore blood flow.”

Genesis has come a long way since 2004, when the heart attack alert process officially began.

“We’ve put many quality and process improvement efforts in place to reduce our door-to-balloon time at Genesis Medical Center, Davenport,” says Colleen Mulholland, Director of the Emergency Department/Trauma Services/Behavioral Health. “We’ve standardized our response to bring quicker results for the benefit of our heart attack patients.”

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