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Don’t wait when it comes to heart attack

New study finds Australians wait too long to go to the hospital.

Australians in the early phase of a heart attack wait too long to go to hospital, a study has shown, pointing to less time for treatment to stem the damage and save lives.

A review of 140 patients who had a history of coronary artery disease, and who were suffering the early symptoms of heart attack, has found just 12 per cent made it to hospital within an hour.
The average delay between the start of symptoms and arriving at hospital was 2.5 hours, while for just over one in 10 the wait was more than 12 hours.

Such delays gave doctors a much reduced window in which to intervene with treatments that could prevent or reduce lasting damage to the heart muscle, said Professor Sharon McKinley, Professor of Critical Care Nursing at University of Technology Sydney and Royal North Shore Hospital.
“These findings reinforce the continuing need to address the problem of delays in deciding to seek treatment after recognition of acute coronary syndrome symptoms,” McKinley said.

“Older people with coronary heart disease who are at greater risk for acute coronary syndrome than the general population need to understand that the most appropriate response is to call an ambulance to take them to hospital as quickly as possible.

“However, it seems likely that older people with coronary artery disease especially need to be assisted in recognising the symptoms... as a first step to seeking treatment.”

The average age of patients in the study was 67 years, and 64 per cent were men.

McKinley said earlier research had shown how people suffering one common symptom of heart attack – chest pain – could often feel they were not sick enough to justify calling an ambulance.
And many who did arrive at hospital in an ambulance only did so because their GP, who they contacted first, had called an ambulance for them.

Patients in the review who arrived at a hospital in an ambulance had a 30 per cent reduced delay compared with those who drove or walked – showing how calling an ambulance was the best approach.

McKinley also said a 2004-05 study found that just short of 50,000 Australians aged 40 to 90 years suffered a major coronary event over the year, or about 130 a day.

“Approximately, 40 per cent of events (19,430 cases) were fatal,” McKinley said.

“Coronary artery disease continues to be a significant cause of death and disability in the developed world.”

The research is published online in Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. - AAP

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