Every minute counts when it comes to heart attack treatment

14 February 2018        

Category: Research

A study, published in the European Heart Journal, shows the longer the time lag between heart attack patients seeing a medical professional and receiving stenting treatment, the more likely you are to die.

A ten minute delay

Researchers found that in heart attack patients who have cardiogenic shock (when the heart suddenly can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs), every ten-minute delay in treatment means there will be an extra 3.3 deaths per 100 patients treated with stenting (PCI). This life saving procedure involves using a balloon catheter to widen blocked arteries and restore blood flow to the heart.

The researchers found a steep increase in deaths the longer it took for patients to receive treatment and that one death in every 12 patients could be prevented when they were treated within the recommended time of less than 90 minutes. A fifth of all patients who received PCI between 150 to 180 minutes after their first contact with a medical professional died.

The research was carried out in 12,675 patients who had the most severe type of heart attack where part of the heart muscle has died due to lack of blood supply. The patients were transported to hospital via emergency medical services and received PCI treatment in Germany between 2006 and 2015.

The full study can be found on the European Heart Journal's website

Heart attack survival is increasing

Previous research that we've funded showed that survival following a life-altering type of heart attack has increased, due to the increased use of this particular lifesaving treatment.

The researchers found that the overall survival rates of people who had suffered this form of heart attack improved by an average of 3.2 per cent each year between 2003 and 2013. Death rates in hospital for these patients decreased by 5.9 per cent over the same time period.

Describing the importance of early treatment for heart attack Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, our Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, explained: 

"Research has shown that an increase in the use of PCI has significantly contributed to improved heart attack survival in the UK. However, although heart attack survival rates are improving, heart attacks still kill roughly one person every 8 minutes. 

“This new study clearly shows that every minute counts when it comes to treating heart attack patients.

"The quicker we can diagnose people and offer them interventions like PCI, the more lives that we will save. This is particularly true for those who are more seriously ill. It is absolutely vital that health systems review how heart attack patients are diagnosed and treated, to ensure this happens in the shortest possible time.”

Find out about our heart attack research