14 December 2005

Hospital heart treatment unit is 'dramatically' saving lives

Irish Independent

**They should have been doing this YEARS ago

Eilish O'Regan
Health Correspondent

LIFESAVING treatment for heart attacks has been dramatically speeded up since the opening of a hospital's new emergency department.

The HSE Southern Area said the opening of the unit at Cork University Hospital has made a "dramatic difference".

Death rates and complications following a heart attack can be greatly reduced by giving injections of "clot-busting" drugs to suitable patients, a spokesman claimed.

However, in order to be fully effective, the drugs need to be administered as soon as possible.

Dr Gemma Kelleher, consultant in emergency medicine, said when a patient arrives in the accident and emergency department with a suspected heart attack, an electro-cardiograph is carried out.

If this confirms a heart attack, and certain medical criteria are met, then a thrombolytic or "clot busting" drug is given and the patient is admitted for further treatment.

The time from when a patient arrives at the department to when the drug is given is known as "door to needle" time.

An audit looked at average "door to needle" times for heart attack patients arriving at the the hospital year. She found that, since the new emergency department opened in April 2005, it has more than halved.

She pointed out this improvement reflects faster diagnosis and treatment as a result of better resources in the new department, and team work in association with cardiology.

"The figures for door to needle time at the emergency department of the hospital are being monitored continuously as part of the quality improvement process.

"The aim is not just to maintain this improvement, but also to look at ways of reducing times even further.

"We are very grateful to CHAIR (Coronary Heart Attack Ireland Register) for providing us with statistics," she added.

She also stressed the role of aspirin in the treatment of heart attacks.

"In research studies, aspirin has been shown to reduce deaths following heart attack by up to a quarter, when used in conjunction with other drugs," added Dr Kelleher.

She advised anyone who feels they may be having a heart attack to take an aspirin and ring 999 to get to hospital as quickly as possible.

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