New research from the UK finds that heart attack patients have a greater chance of dying after they leave the hospital if they miss even one component of their after-care.

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“There is a clear relationship between the ability to provide comprehensive and timely care, and treatment and improved chance of heart attack survival,” says Dr. Chris Gale.

In the European Heart Journal: Acute Cardiovascular Care, researchers from the University of Leeds analyzed links between heart attack survival and nine components of post-discharge care.

The components of post-discharge care they analyzed were:

  • Referral for cardiac rehabilitation
  • Pre-hospital electrocardiogram
  • Acute use of aspirin and prescription at hospital discharge of aspirin (to thin the blood and reduce risk of clots)
  • Reperfusion (restoring blood flow to the heart)
  • Timely use of four drugs designed to prevent further heart attacks: ACE-inhibitors (to improve blood flow), beta-blockers (to slow the heart), statins (to control cholesterol), angiotensin receptor blockers (to control high blood pressure).

The researchers found that heart attack patients have a 46% higher chance of dying within a month – and a 74% chance of dying within a year – of discharge, if any one of these elements of care is missed.

Dr. Chris Gale, an associate professor of Cardiovascular Health Sciences at Leeds and leader of the British Heart Foundation-funded study, says:

The tragedy of all this is that these deaths are avoidable. There is a clear relationship between the ability to provide comprehensive and timely care, and treatment and improved chance of heart attack survival.”

He says to maximize the chances of saving lives, it is vitally important that health care professionals are fully aware of and trained in these treatments.

“Many of these guideline recommended steps are straightforward, but for some reason they are not being provided,” he says. “If more components of care are missed, the chance of dying increases further.”

In their study, he and his colleagues found around half of 31,000 patients discharged from the hospital after heart attack treatment in England and Wales between 2007-2010 missed the chance to receive one of these potentially life-saving treatments.

Also, those who did not receive a treatment, like having an electrocardiogram within the first few hours of experiencing symptoms, were at much greater risk of missing other elements of care.

The study also found hospitals that did not treat as many heart attack patients and had fewer specialist beds were more likely to miss opportunities to deliver care.

Hospitals with no specialist beds for cardiology patients missed opportunities to deliver care 11% more often than those that had 50 or more such specialist beds.

Peter Weissberg, a professor and medical director at the British Heart Foundation, says the study shows how important it is to deliver the whole package of care to heart attack survivors:

The key message is that someone’s recovery from a heart attack is not solely dependent on any single element of the care pathway. This research shows the importance of ensuring all elements of care for heart attack patients are optimally delivered.”

Meanwhile, Medical News Today recently learned how heart attack survivors who are given polypills are more likely to take their medication, potentially preventing them from having further heart attacks.