Heart Attacks: Where you have one may determine if you survive.

A very interesting, and disturbing, article appeared in today’s Wall Street Journal.  The article, “No Place for a Heart Attack” presents some facts that might surprise you:

1.  More than 200,000 Americans experience a heart attack each year.

2.  Approximately 10,000 of those people (5%), experience their heart attack while already hospitalized for an illness or surgery.  The remaining 190,000 people (95%), experience their attack outside of the hospital and are typically rushed to the hospital via ambulance

Guess which category of patient gets the quickest treatment (which may well determine whether they survive the attack)?  If you guessed those patients already in the hospital with all of the nurses and doctors just steps away…you would be wrong.  Maybe dead wrong.

Outside the Hospital:  When a person experiences a heart attack outside the hospital, a rescue squad or ambulance is usually in the picture. When the medics arrive, suspected heart attack patients are appropriately “worked up,” given an electrocardiogram (ECG) and the results often are immediately sent to the hosptial emergency department, and possibly to the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab. The article reported the average time from ECG to treatment in the hospital is 60 minutes.  The fatality rate is 4%.

Hospitalized Patients: When a person experiences a heart attack while already a patient in the hospital for another illness or operation, symptoms of a heart attack are often missed, or the diagnosis delayed.  Non-cardiac doctors or nurses often wait for the results of other tests to be availabe before reading an ECG or consulting with a cardiologist.  The average time from ECG to treatment is 129 minutes (over twice as long as for patient who experiences a heart attack outside the hospital).  The fatality rate for these patients is 40%.

My Take:  The article acknowledges the efforts of some physicans, and hospitals, to address these shocking findings.  I hope they are successful….your life might just depend on it.


Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at dfrith@frithlawfirm.com.