Integrated city-wide emergency protocol cuts heart attack deaths by half

    New Heart Institute protocol also reduces ER congestion, eases wait times

    OTTAWA, Jan. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - People in the Ottawa region who call 911
with chest pain are 50% less likely to die from a heart attack as a result of
an advanced emergency protocol developed by the University of Ottawa Heart
Institute (UOHI). The program, featured in today's issue of the New England
Journal of Medicine, also cuts emergency room congestion and eases critical
wait time which directly influences survivability.
    Research and trials led by Dr. Michel Le May, Director of UOHI's Coronary
Care Unit, have proven that taking a fresh approach to cardiac treatment leads
to a significant reduction in mortality. Specifically, the Heart Institute
model trains advanced care paramedics to diagnose ST-Elevation Myocardial
Infarction (STEMI), a major form of heart attack, and route patients directly
to the Heart Institute, bypassing local emergency departments (ED). At UOHI,
an emergency STEMI team, available 24/7, administers the type of care proven
to be optimal for the survivability of STEMI patients.
    "The whole point to this approach is to eliminate time, either time spent
in an ED or from the moment an ambulance crew responds to a 911 call to the
moment effective treatment is administered," said Dr. Le May. "The longer it
takes to receive appropriate care, the greater the risk of damage to the heart
and, by extension, the higher the rate of mortality."
    Dr. Le May's results in the New England Journal of Medicine (2008;
353:231-40) show that, using the new protocol, in-hospital heart attack deaths
between May 2005 and May 2006 dropped to less than 5% for Heart Institute
patients, down from 10% for patients who were treated using conventional
    Traditionally, patients experiencing chest pains who arrived at the
emergency department were examined by the ED doctor and, in consultation with
a cardiologist, the STEMI condition was diagnosed. In the majority of cases,
clot-busting drugs (thrombolytics) were administered and the patient's
condition subsequently monitored. With this approach, patients requiring
"urgent" additional treatment were often transferred to the Heart Institute
only after a 2-3 hour delay.
    With the new protocol, the ED doctor who detects a STEMI case immediately
arranges for an ambulance to route the patient to the Heart Institute. No
thrombolytics are employed and no local cardiologist is required.
Alternatively, paramedics who respond to a 911 call can also diagnose a STEMI
condition and proceed directly to the Heart Institute, bypassing the ED.
    In both cases, a "Code STEMI" is triggered and a specialized Heart
Institute team is waiting to perform a Percutaneous Coronary Intervention
(PCI) or angioplasty. This method involves using a balloon to clear blocked
    In its first full year of using the Heart Institute's new protocol, a
total of 344 STEMI patients were transported to the Heart Institute. Of these,
209 were delivered by ambulance from local hospital EDs and 135 were
transported directly from the field as a result of 911 calls. The median
door-to-balloon time for patients arriving via the ED was 123 minutes and was
69 minutes for those arriving via 911 calls.
    In the case of ED routing, about an hour of time was saved with the new
protocol compared to previous reports on inter-hospital transfer of patients
for PCI. However, by relying on paramedics to diagnose the STEMI, an extremely
low door-to-balloon time was achieved. As well, by proceeding directly to the
Heart Institute, the paramedics were able to reduce traffic volume to EDs by
about 40%.
    Other research directed by Dr. Le May has shown that PCI is superior to
clot busting drugs in saving heart attack patients. In further findings,
inserting a stent by angioplasty to improve blood flow was also much less
costly than using a clot busting drug. Overall hospitalization costs were
lower. So too was length of stay in hospital.
    "The results we have achieved reflect the natural mix of patients who
required treatment in a year. This study does not result from highly selected
candidates with a specific set of attributes. In other words, they are based
on real world conditions and circumstances and involved patients of varying
complication and morbidities," said Dr. Le May.
    The STEMI program originated with a pilot phase in 2001 by Dr. Le May and
colleagues Dr. Justin Maloney, Medical Director of the Ottawa Base Hospital
Paramedic Program and Dr. Richard Dionne, Assistant Medical Director of the
paramedic program. The STEMI program has drawn interest coast-to-coast in
Canada, in the U.S. and Europe.
    "This model or any of its parts would work for any city of any size -
from training paramedics to identify a STEMI to setting up a system for
on-call angioplasty," said Dr. Le May.

    About UOHI

    The University of Ottawa Heart Institute is Canada's largest and foremost
cardiovascular health centre dedicated to understanding, treating and
preventing heart disease. We deliver high-tech care with a personal touch,
shape the way cardiovascular medicine is practiced, and revolutionize cardiac
treatment and understanding. We build knowledge through research and translate
discoveries into advanced care. We serve the local, national and international
community, and are pioneering a new era in heart health. For more information,

    /NOTE TO PHOTO EDITORS: A photo accompanying this release is available on
    the CNW Photo Network and archived at
    Additional archived images are also available on the CNW Photo Archive
    website at Images are free to accredited
    members of the media/

For further information:

For further information: Marlene Orton, Senior Manager, Public Affairs,
University of Ottawa Heart Institute, (613) 761-4427,

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Ottawa Heart Institute, University of Ottawa

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