A new study finds that half of people who suffer a heart attack fail to immediately call an ambulance for help. This delays diagnosis which could potentially worsen their odds of survival. People who found another way to the hospital or delayed calling an ambulance increased their average diagnosis time from 81 minutes to 119 minutes.
The researchers analyzed treatment timelines from symptom onset to diagnosis for 445 people who were hospitalized for ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). The American Heart Association (AHA) describes a STEMI as “a severe heart attack caused by a prolonged period of blocked blood supply that affects a large area of the heart.” The symptoms can include chest pain, heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness and nausea.
Among the study participants who didn’t immediately call for an ambulance, 30% didn’t think they were sick enough to go to the hospital. The study authors believe the reluctance comes from the patients’ uncertainty about whether symptoms are really a heart attack and that they simply may not realize how critical immediate interventions are in treating STEMI. However, the AHA states “these attacks carry a substantial risk of death and disability and call for a quick response by many individuals and systems.”
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Source: Thylen I, Ericsson M, Angerud K, et al. First medical contact in patients with STEMI and its impact on time to diagnosis; an explorative cross-sectional study. BMJ Open, 2015: e007059 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-007059.