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Your Healthy Family: NCH improves heart attack protocol to treat patients in half the time

Posted at 7:51 AM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 12:57:05-04

NAPLES, Fla. — The team at NCH Healthcare System spent three months hard at work to revise its STEMI protocols so it can better treat patients. STEMI stands for ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction — a type of serious heart attack. NCH says it can now treat STEMI patients in half the time it took before.

"A STEMI is what we commonly know as a heart attack," Dr. Robert Cubeddu, the President of the NCH Heart Institute, said when this happens, one of the arteries to the heart is blocked.

"From one minute to the next, oxygen and blood doesn't travel to the heart. The heart muscle suffers, and patients can have a sudden cardiac arrest," Dr. Cubeddu said.

"There are people that have the big one, and that sends them into an instant cardiac arrhythmia, and they can die on the spot," Dr. John Zelahy, an NCH Emergency Department Physician, said.

Dr. Zelahy said a lot of the patients they see in the Emergency Department come in with one blocked coronary artery.

"The heart has more than one coronary artery, so luckily, it still keeps running. But if you don't open that up, you're going to end up with long term disability, their hearts not going to function at 100 percent," Dr. Zelahy said.

Dr. Cubeddu said minutes matter — the shorter time it takes to reopen that artery, the better the outcome. When it comes to a STEMI, Cardiology divisions follow a key metric at the national level called the "Door-to-Balloon Time." A balloon is what opens up a blocked artery and restores blood flow.

"The time it takes from when the patient hits the emergency room, to the time it takes us to open up the artery. That time should be less than 90 minutes, according to the national guidelines," Dr. Cubeddu said.

But he said years ago, compared to other hospitals, NCH Healthcare System was under-performing.

"We were less than 10 percentile in performance in the time that it took to open up the artery," he said.

The NCH Heart institute decided it was time to make a change. It worked with first responders and Emergency Department nurses, techs and doctors for three months.

"We've been able to lessen that that time to approximately 28 minutes, putting us at the 99th percentile in performance for the abrupt treatment of heart attack," Dr. Cubeddu said.

NCH's Door-to-Balloon time is down from 74 to 28 minutes.

"We owe it to our patients. We owe it to our community to provide the best of care," Dr. Cubeddu said.

In Tuesday's Your Healthy Family, Fox 4's Lisa Greenberg will show you how they were able to cut down that time.