WESTLAKE, OH – When it comes to cardiac care, anyone in the medical profession will tell you that time is muscle. In fact, a recent study published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) indicated that even five minutes could make a difference as to how well a patient may recover. That’s what prompted St. John Medical Center to recently purchase a LIFENET Receiving Station that will allow its emergency department to receive real-time 12-lead EKG data from paramedics while they are still in the field. It is the first hospital on the west side assisting local EMS to obtain equipment necessary to relay real time 12-lead EKG data in order to save valuable evaluation, diagnosis and treatment time in cardiac emergencies.
Our hospital is always looking for ways to provide better patient care," said Cliff J. Coker, interim president, SJWS. "With this 12-lead EKG initiative, we can decrease door-to-therapy time which provides the patient with a better chance of survival. We are pleased to be the first hospital on Cleveland’s west-side to make this life-saving technology available."
The 12-lead EKG technology is not new to the medical profession. But only in recent years has the improved diagnostic quality of this technology allowed for accurate interpretations of the twelve lead obtained in the field and transmitted in real time.
"Real time information is critical in order for us to fully assess a situation and determine how to best prep the Cath Lab," said Dr. Roy Seitz, medical director of the St. John West Shore Emergency Department and one of the leading advocates of the new 12-lead EKG initiative. "This type of technology is critical in allowing us to accurately diagnose a heart attack. By knowing, in advance, that there is an occlusion, we can completely bypass the Emergency Department and send the patient directly to the Cath Lab for angioplasty or another form of interventional treatment. Even though our transport times on the west-side are relatively short, this type of field evaluation could save us as much as 10-15 minutes. For some patients, that means the difference between living and dying. For others, it might mean a higher quality of life after recovery."
Communities benefiting from the new 12-lead EKG initiative include Westlake and other surrounding Westside communities and eastern Lorain County communities.
A number of Cleveland’s east-side hospitals have had 12-lead EKG technology in the field; as have hospitals in other major Ohio cities, such as Columbus, Cincinnati and Akron. That’s because their average emergency transport time is as much as twice as long as what is experienced on the west side (which is, on average, only five to six minutes). Until recently, national guidelines indicated that this short transport period was not sufficient to warrant the financial investment in 12-lead EKG technology in the field.
It was St. John West Shore’s Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology, Dr. Atul Hyulkar, who first became aware of the recently revised criteria and signaled the need for the field technology to hospital management. Until now, west-side emergency field personnel relied on two lead rhythm strips to assess the acuteness of a patient’s condition. According to Patrick Caughey, EMS Coordinator for St. John Medical Center, the 12-lead EKG has become the standard for care as it shows a fuller picture of the heart.
Caughey continued, "Real time EKG’s allow for earlier activation of the cardiac cath team. There are many reasons for chest pain, many of which are not cardiac related. So you need to know the full extent of the problem to make an accurate diagnosis. We now know from recent research that even the five or ten minutes it might take the EMS to arrive at the hospital to first assess the problem can make a life-saving difference."
According to the American Journal of Cardiology, acute myocardial infarction (an occlusion that blocks blood flow to the heart) is the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S. More than five million Americans enter hospitals each year with chest pain. Of those, approximately 600,000 will die annually from heart disease. The blocked artery must be opened in order to restore blood flow. Until such time, valuable heart muscle continues to be damaged.
The American College of Cardiology and The American Heart Association guidelines suggest best standard for restoring blood to the heart is 90 minutes (door to balloon time). With the information obtained by real time EKG’s, we can potentially reduce this time to less than 60 minutes.
The purchase of the new LIFENET Receiving Station and EMS equipment was made possible, by hospital support, EMS local communities and the fundraising efforts at this year’s St. John Medical Center Festival of the Arts. These combined efforts allowed the purchase of 12-lead EKG equipment to 10 communities.
According to Caughey, several other local hospitals are expected to follow St. John Medical Center’s lead.
For more information about St. John Medical Center’s recent initiatives in the cardiac care or emergency services area, please contact the Public Relations Office at 440.827.5148.