Heart-attack treatment times have improved dramatically

A little change can go a long way. That's the concept behind the Door-to-Balloon (D2B) Alliance, which helped hospitals around the nation significantly speed up treatments to patients admitted to the hospital with STEMI heart attacks (those with a major blockage of a heart artery), reports HealthDay News

According to a study conducted by doctors at Yale University School of Medicine, in 2005, only 52.5 percent of STEMI heart attack patients at 831 hospitals received artery-opening angioplasty within 90 minutes of arrival. Last year, that percentage jumped to 76.4 percent. This past June, the percentage increased again, to 81.7. Between 2005 and 2009, the average wait time for the start of angioplasty decreased by more than 40 minutes, down to 80 minutes from 121 minutes. 

Improved communications and employee mindset proved to be the biggest factors in the reduced wait times. Acts as seemingly small as ambulance attendants alerting the hospital know ahead of time that a heart attack victim was en route, and giving the cath labs and interventional cardiologists a heads up about an impending procedure, added up to big-time results, says Elizabeth Bradley, the study's lead author. 

Despite the fact that this particular study did not report whether the faster response times actually improved outcomes, Bradley added that "several studies have shown that reduction of door-to-balloon time is associated with improved patient survival." 

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece