New In-Ambulance Treatment Of Heart Attack Patients Expected To Save Lives, Improve Outcomes - Ontario, Canada
The initiative - a joint program of Newmarket-based Southlake Regional Health Centre and York Region Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will save lives and significantly reduce the extent of damage to the heart by starting initial treatment earlier, says Dr. Warren Cantor, medical director of the Interventional and Invasive Program at Southlake, who is spearheading this initiative.
Using advanced technology, paramedics in York Region suspecting that a patient is experiencing a heart attack will wirelessly transmit an electrocardiogram - which they perform in the ambulance - to Southlake Regional Health Centre cardiologists. The physicians then view the electrocardiogram on a hospital computer screen or on their Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to confirm the patient's diagnosis and recommend the appropriate treatment, including authorizing paramedics to immediately administer intravenous clot-busting drugs.
In most regions of North America, clot-busting medications cannot be given in the ambulance because the physician is not able to view the electrocardiogram and confirm the diagnosis of heart attack. York Region is now one of the very few regions in North America that is able to administer clot-busting medications in the ambulance. Southlake Regional Health Centre and York Region will be participating in an international study - the STREAM trial - comparing clot-busting medications given in the ambulance with angioplasty in patients who are too far from a cardiac centre to undergo angioplasty within one hour.
Heart attacks occur when one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart become blocked, depriving the heart of the oxygen it requires to function effectively. The length of time the blood supply is cut off determines the amount of damage done to the heart.
Angioplasty - which uses catheter-mounted balloons and stents to open a blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart - is accepted by the medical community as the best initial treatment for heart attacks when performed very rapidly. Since this is often not possible, clot-busting medications can be given in the interim to help reduce heart damage.
"The technology enables us to give better treatment quicker by shifting the initial treatment from the emergency room to the ambulance," Dr. Cantor said, estimating that the time savings translates to about an hour, which research has shown results in substantially improved survival. Anyone experiencing symptoms that may represent a heart attack should call 911 immediately in order to receive treatment quickly, he emphasized.
"A project of this magnitude requires strong cooperation between the partners involved," said York Region Chairman and CEO Bill Fisch. "York Region is committed to working with Southlake Regional Health Centre on the STREAM Study project, with over 100 York Region EMS Advanced Care Paramedics trained and ready to participate."
The initiative, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is similar to a program launched in December 2008 in Edmonton - the first of its kind in Canada.
For more information about the Southlake Regional Health Centre-York Region EMS program, please visit http://www.southlakeregional.org.
About Southlake Regional Health Centre
Based in Newmarket, Southlake Regional Health Centre is a full-service hospital with a focus on cancer care, cardiac care, pediatric and perinatal care, child and adolescent eating disorders, and child and adolescent mental health care. Serving more than one million residents of York Region and South Simcoe, Southlake is the fourth-largest cardiac centre in Ontario. Southlake works with hospitals and emergency medical services throughout York, Simcoe and Dufferin regions to ensure patients suspected of having a heart attack are taken by ambulance directly to Southlake's cardiac centre for specialized care.
Southlake Regional Health Centre
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