Heart attack patients have two new options for care

Kaiser and Sutter hospitals in Roseville designated as regional heart attack centers
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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For a person experiencing a heart attack, time is of the essence. Heart attacks occur when the supply of oxygen and blood flow to the heart is blocked. A delay in proper medical care can mean the difference between life and death. “The timeliness of treatment is critically important,” said Satyendra Giri, director of Cardiovascular Interventional Services at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center. “We like to say, ‘time is muscle.’ It becomes a race against time to clear up that blocked artery as quickly as possible.” Roseville residents experiencing a serious heart attack used to be sent to the nearest hospital, even if that medical center could not perform the needed procedures to save lives. But not anymore. On Tuesday, Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center and Sutter Roseville Medical Center earned designations as regional heart attack centers. Now, emergency medical technicians will bypass other hospitals and transport a heart attack patient in south Placer County or neighboring counties within 30 minutes to one of these two medical centers, both equipped to perform emergency angioplasties and other procedures. Nationally, the mortality rate of people who experience a severe heart attack is 80 percent. Designated receiving centers increase the survival rates of patients, according to the Sierra-Sacramento Valley Emergency Medical Services Agency, which designates the centers. For patients who experience severe heart attacks, known as ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction, physicians at designated centers perform a minor surgery called percutaneous coronary intervention, better known as angioplasty and stent placement. For this procedure, doctors unblock arteries and quickly restore blood to the heart muscle within 90 minutes of the patient’s arrival at the hospital. Sutter Roseville Medical Center has performed angioplasties consistently for the past three years to treat about 450 heart attack patients, one-third of which experienced severe cardiac emergencies. Roseville’s Kaiser facility started performing angioplasties in September of 2009 and doctors have treated about 60 patients with this procedure. Before, doctors used a medicine to unclog arteries, which worked about 50 percent of the time, Giri said. Angioplasty, however, works 95 percent of the time. A patient experiencing a cardiac emergency should call 911 immediately. Emergency medical technicians will perform an electrocardiogram on the scene to determine if the patient is experiencing a severe heart attack, in which case the patient will be diverted to a local heart attack center. Dr. George Fehrenbacher, medical director of Cardiology Services at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, said doctors typically conduct electrocardiograms at hospitals, emergency rooms or doctor’s offices, not at the site where symptoms first occur. “We identify major life-threatening heart attacks in the field,” Fehrenbacher said. “The whole point is to do this very quickly. People can loose their life if they wait too long. Shaving off even 30 minutes makes a major impact on whether the patient can survive.” During the ambulance ride, medical technicians transmit the patient’s information to the receiving medical center, where nurses and physicians establish a treatment plan while the patient is en route to the emergency room. For a hospital such as Kaiser, which uses an electronic medical records system, this means the patient’s information will already be available upon the ambulance’s arrival. This process expedites care, Giri said. “For the time-sensitive treatment of heart attack patients, it’s critical to have all of that information without missing a beat,” Giri said. “No pun intended.” Sena Christian can be reached at