For heart patients, "time is muscle." So by treating heart attack patients faster, doctors can reduce the severity of cardiac muscle damage. A key measure is "door to balloon" time, the time from when a patient arrives at the hospital until their arteries are unblocked.

For heart patients, "time is muscle," says Dr. Charles Lucore, executive director of the Prairie Heart Institute at St. John's Hospital. So by treating heart attack patients faster, doctors can reduce the severity of cardiac muscle damage.


A key measure is "door to balloon" time, the time from when a patient arrives at the hospital until their arteries are unblocked.


St. John's Hospital and Memorial Medical Center are both faster than the American College of Cardiology recommended time of 90 minutes or less. 


Memorial's program for treating heart attacks is called Star 80, which was started in February 2008.


"Star 80 means for us is that when a patient walks in or comes by ambulance and arrives at the emergency room until they have good blood flow in their heart is 80 minutes or less," said Jennifer Boyer, director of emergency services at Memorial Medical Center.


The average time through the last year has been 66 minutes, she said.


"Since October of this year, the mean time is 46 minutes," Boyer said. "We are continuing to look for areas for improvement, which allows for a better outcome for our patients."


At St. John's Hospital, they also work to have a door-to-balloon time less than 90 minutes; over the last three years it has been about 50 minutes.


In September, the average time was 39 minutes and in October it was 53 minutes, according to Brian Reardon, a hospital spokesman.


Representatives of both hospitals say doctors and the cardiac catheterization lab work as a team to ensure speedy care.


St. John's takes a multidisciplinary effort involving emergency room physicians, cath lab nurses, floor and cardiac nurses and cardiologists, Lucore said.


Fast care at the hospital also involves others besides the cardiologist.


"The emergency doctor is empowered to make the decision to activate the cath lab," he said. "We also have a 24-hour on-call in-house cath lab team Monday through Friday and available on-call on weekends."


Along with these procedures, the hospital has on-call cardiologists available around the clock.


In the majority of cases at Memorial, the cath lab team is ready before the arrival of the heart-attack patient, Boyer said.


"Part of the protocol in the Star 80 program is that when a patient is declared to be in need of an angioplasty, we immediately page the cardiologist and the cath lab team," she said.


Boyer added their emergency room physician also is able to make decisions about preparation for an angioplasty prior to the cardiologist arriving on the scene. Their cardiologists are available on-call 24 hours.


The cath lab team is available 15.5 hours each day Monday through Friday and 11 hours on Saturday.


"When they are not in the hospital they are available on-call and will arrive at the hospital within 30 minutes," Boyer said.


State Journal-Register


On the Net:


Study finds hospitals speeding heart attack care


Sticking with heart rehab boosts survival