Surviving heart attacks

When you are having a heart attack, the hospital you go to can make the difference between living and dying.

Researchers at Yale, Harvard, Mount Sinai in New York and the University of Michigan studied the outcomes of 718,028 Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized for heart attacks from 2004 through 2006. And those patients who went to hospitals with the capability to open clogged heart arteries with stents – so-called PCI hospitals – were less likely to die as those who went to hospitals without that ability.

The researchers noted that the degree of patient benefit varied based on the region where they got care. Still patients who first went to a non-PCI hospital were much more often transferred (31.4 percent versus 3.3 percent) and also less likely to undergo heart surgery or get a stent than those taken to a PCI hospital. The study was published in the current issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

An interactive database on heart care available here shows that in New Jersey and Pennsylvania eight of 12 hospitals that had death rates that were “better than the national rate” were PCI hospitals. Those included Doylestown Hospital in Bucks County and Virtua West Jersey Hospital – Marlton. At the same time that data shows that two of the three hospitals that had worse results than the national rate were PCI hospitals. The vast majority of hospitals in Pennsylvania had rates that fell into the normal range.

The American Heart Association notes that the warning signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort, pain in one or both arms, and shortness of breath. The groups pointed out that not all the signs are necessarily present during a heart attack, but added that a heart attacks is an emergency and "every second counts. If you see or have any of the listed symptoms, immediately call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number."