If you have a heart attack in an airport, or even a casino, there is a 50% chance you survive, compared to just one third if your heart attack takes place at a US hospital, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). It seems that all too often patients do not get life-saving defibrillation within the crucial two minutes when in hospital.

The researchers explain that if you get defibrillation within two minutes at a hospital (following a heart attack) your chances of survival are about double, at 40%, compared to 22% if you don’t. Approximately three-quarters of a million people have a life-threatening alteration in heart rhythms in US hospitals, while another 250,000 or so experience them outside hospitals.

The chances you are on your own when in hospital and have a heart attack are much greater than if it took place in an airport or casino. People around you at a casino/airport will respond immediately, while a patient on his/her own in a hospital ward may not be so lucky. The two-minute window for defibrillation is critical for improving a patient’s chances of survival. If the hospital is small, the risk of missing that window is even greater, say the researchers. Worst times in hospital for having a heart attack seem to be at night and during the weekend.

Health care professionals have pointed out to Medical News Today that another factor which could lower survival rates for people who have a heart attack in hospital is existing illness. A person who has a heart attack in a casino/airport is less likely to already have an underlying/existing illness, compared to a patient in a hospital who has a heart attack. In other words, people who have a heart attack in casinos/airports tend to enjoy better health prior to that moment compared to patients in hospital who have a heart attack.

“Delayed Time to Defibrillation after In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest”
Paul S. Chan, M.D., Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., Graham Nichol, M.D., M.P.H., Brahmajee K. Nallamothu, M.D., M.P.H., and the American Heart Association National Registry of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Investigators
NEJM Volume 358:9-17, January 3, 2008, Number 1
Click here to view Abstract online

Written by – Christian Nordqvist