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Putting Time on Your Heart’s Side

If you suffer a heart attack, every minute that passes between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment can contribute to the loss of heart muscle. At Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville, a specialized protocol allows patients to receive the treatment they need as quickly as possible.

A certain type of heart attack called ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is particularly dangerous. A STEMI is the proverbial “big one,” an event that damages the ventricles — the lower part of the heart that does most of the blood pumping. If you
experience any symptoms of a heart attack (see “Serious Signs”), call 911 immediately.

“The longer the heart muscle goes without oxygen and nutrients, the more of it dies,” says Marilyn Brister, M.D., medical director of the Emergency Department at Texas Health Stephenville. “Heart muscle that dies normally doesn’t rejuvenate; it becomes scar tissue.”

To care for STEMI patients, Texas Health Stephenville follows a specific protocol that begins with emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in the field. When EMS associates arrive at the scene to care for an individual with chest pain, they notify the Emergency Department (ED) at the hospital and can even interpret the results of an electrocardiogram (EKG) taken in the field to a physician in the ED if necessary.

A STEMI patient who arrives in the ED is immediately met by a nurse, who arranges for the patient to have an EKG (if this hasn’t taken place in the field) and blood work. Based on the EKG, if a STEMI is diagnosed, a helicopter is immediately activated to take the patient to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, where physicians perform a procedure to reopen the patient’s blocked artery using angioplasty or stenting. The goal is to restore blood flow through the patient’s obstructed vessel within 90 minutes or less after the patient arrives in the ED at Texas Health Stephenville. The goal is for patients to spend 30 minutes or less at Texas Health Stephenville before being transported to Texas Health Fort Worth.

“The most important things to remember are to take symptoms such as chest pain seriously and to know your heart attack risk factors,” Brister says. “Being self-aware, knowledgeable and vigilant when it comes to heart attack can save your life.”

According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks don’t fit popular culture’s image of them — swift and devastating. The majority of heart attacks are gradual events that begin with mild pain.

Pain in the chest — persistent or intermittent — is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women. However, women
are more likely to experience other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and/or pain in the back or jaw. Heart attack can also cause pain in other parts of the body, such as the neck and arms.

If you experience any of these symptoms, wait no more than five minutes before calling 911.

To learn more about heart attack care at Texas Health Stephenville, call 1-877-THR-WELL (1-877-847-9355).

Fall/Winter 2011

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