New machines save hearts, time

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Kayla Bunge
Saturday, May 31, 2008
— Time is of the essence for heart attack patients.

But for patients suffering from a heart attack caused by the sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery (called an ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI), the urgency for treatment is even greater.

Mercy Health System is changing its approach to the treatment of STEMI heart attacks by equipping local emergency medical personnel with machines that previously were used only after patients arrived at the hospital.

Dr. Michael Kellum, director of Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center, announced Friday that the Delavan Rescue Squad and the Fontana Rescue Squad would receive 12-lead defibrillators for use in the field. Mercy also is working to provide the town of Linn Fire and EMS Department with a defibrillator.

The Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire Department recently purchased two defibrillators, the first municipal pre-hospital provider to acquire the machines.

The defibrillators can quickly identify patients having a STEMI heart attack and transmit that information to a local hospital.

Speeding the identification of a STEMI heart attack speeds the patient to appropriate treatment. A helicopter can be activated, for example, to be ready to fly a patient to a hospital with a cardiac catherization lab.

Kellum said the standard treatment of STEMI heart attacks is changing from clot-busting drugs to angioplasty.

But angioplasty is time-sensitive, he said. The treatment is most effective if performed within 90 minutes of a patientís arrival at the hospital (called door-to-balloon time). The more time that elapses, the more irreversible damage is done to the heart.

Kevin Kennedy, EMS coordinator at Mercy Walworth, said providing emergency medical personnel in the field with a machine that can detect a STEMI heart attack and alert a hospital, up to 60 minutes can be shaved off, Kennedy said.

When the Bloomfield-Genoa City Fire Department previously responded to a heart attack call, the patient was taken to a nearby hospital, where the defibrillator was used. The patient then was transported by helicopter to another hospital for treatment.

Kennedy said by using the defibrillators in the field, door to balloon time could be reduced to just over an hour.


What is a STEMI heart attack? STEMI is an abbreviation for ST-elevation myocardial infarction. Itís a type of heart attack caused by the sudden, total blockage of a coronary artery. It affects a large part of the heart and can distinctly be seen on an EKG.

How does a 12-lead defibrillator work? Emergency medical personnel place the leads on a patient and press a button to obtain an EKG reading. The data is transmitted wirelessly using Bluetooth technology to a local hospital, where a doctor can diagnose the patient and prepare to treat the patient or transport the patient to another hospital.

Last updated: 9:03 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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