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Study Links Delays in Heart Attack Victim Transfers to Fatality Risk

Jul 22, 2011 Brown Moore Medical Malpractice

A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 11 percent of heart attack victims who must be transferred to another hospital are moved within the recommended interval. Patients who suffer a type of myocardial infarction known as a STEMI should be transported with 30 minutes to receive a stent or angioplasty.

Only a quarter of American hospitals can perform these types of coronary interventions, and prompt treatment for those who present symptoms consistent with STEMI is vital. The study showed that the death rate for patients with a maximum turnaround time of 30 minutes was only 2.7 percent, but rose to 5.9 percent if diagnosis and transfer take longer.

The study, “Association of Door-In to Door-Out Time With Reperfusion Delays and Outcomes Among Patients Transferred for Primary Percutaneous Coronary Intervention,” was authored by doctors from the Mayo Clinic, Yale School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, and Duke University’s Clinical Research Institute in North Carolina. Analyzing nearly 15,000 STEMI cases over three years, the authors found a median door-in/door-out (DIDO) time in excess of an hour. Several factors were related to excessive DIDO times, including elderly and female patients, as well as off-hours presentation.

Emergency room errors can lead to delays in treatment, and one of the most crucial tasks in an ER is a prompt assessment of every patient to prioritize care. Heart attack victims are among the most critical cases that North Carolina emergency rooms receive every day. This study has important implications because medical malpractice liability is based on whether the medical professionals and staff involved adhered to accepted standards of care.