August 1, 2014

The best (and worst) times to have a heart attack

Daily Briefing

Individuals who have heart attacks and seek treatment at hospitals during business hours are more likely to survive than those who arrive during the nighttime or on weekends or holidays, according to a new study in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

A simple test to rule out heart attacks in the ED

For the study, researchers examined data on 50,000 heart attacks from 2007 to 2010. They found that:

  • During the day on a weekday, it took about 56 minutes from hospital arrival to angioplasty for the average patient with a heart attack.
  • At all other times, the average wait time for an angioplasty was 72 minutes.

The American Heart Association recommends a wait time of no more than 90 minutes for a patient experiencing a heart attack to undergo the procedure. About 89% of patients who arrived during regular hours underwent angioplasty within 90 minutes, while 79% of patients who arrived during off hours did so.

 But study author Jorge Saucedo notes that, a hospital catheterization lab would have to be fully staffed around-the-clock to improve wait times for non-weekday patients. Currently, the fiscal and logistical costs of doing so would be too high for most hospitals, he says.

Overall, the study found that patients who arrived on nights or weekends were about 13% more likely to die from any cause than patients who arrived during the day on a weekday.

Heart attack risk soars after an angry outburst

The authors note that the numbers are improvements from previews studies and hospitals have become better at managing heart attacks. They recommend patients experiencing heart attack symptoms—like shortness of breath, excess sweating, and tightness of chest—come to the hospital as soon as possible (Doyle, Reuters, 7/29; Dallas, HealthDay, 7/30). 

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