Sunday, March 11, 2007

Quick treatment by trained paramedics saves lives

Quick treatment by trained paramedics saves lives
Author: Dr. John A. Carroll

In the Peoria Journal Star today is an article “Hospitals Aim to Speed Heart Attack Response”.

The article states that hundreds of hospitals around the country are joining a project to attempt to give faster emergency room care to people suffering major heart attacks.

The idea is to keep the “door to balloon” time less than 90 minutes for the patient. This means that the patient suffering a major heart attack should have the blood vessel that is causing the heart attack opened with the cardiologist’s balloon within 90 minutes after the patient presents to the emergency room. The mortality rate for the patient goes up quickly after 90 minutes with a heart that is starving for oxygen.

Many hospitals were questioned and six measures were found to save valuable “door to balloon” time for the patient.

Now imagine Peoria. Forget the “door to balloon” time for a moment. Time can be saved and much more advanced care should be given to Peorians in the pre-hospital setting.

The Peoria Fire Department (PFD) has firefighters that are trained paramedics that cannot use their skills for the patient having a major heart attack long before they reach the door of the emergency room. These firefighter/paramedics cannot do pre hospital electrocardiograms. They cannot provide advanced cardiac life support. They cannot transport the patient. They cannot insert a breathing tube for patients unless requested to do so by Advanced Medical Transport. These same firefighter/paramedics couldn’t even give the patient an aspirin until several years ago.

The PFD median response time is several minutes quicker to major medical 911 calls than is Advanced Medical Transport. The PFD responds to thousands of calls annually for chest pain and shortness of breath. Medical studies have shown that Advanced Cardiac Life Support decreases the mortality for these subsets of patients. And the Peoria Fire Department is not allowed to provide this advanced service.

How much time is lost in the pre-hospital setting in Peoria because of our dysfunctional EMS before the patient reaches the “door” of the emergency room? More importantly, how many patients have been lost because of Peoria’s philosophy regarding emergency care?

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