Study: Early treatment cuts deaths from heart attack-shock combo
Web posted at: 6:14 p.m. EST (2314 GMT)
From Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Three years ago, at the age of 50, Mounir Zahr suffered a major heart attack and almost died in the emergency room.
"I didn't think that I would really make it," Zahr said. "I was surprised that I did."
Zahr's condition became complicated when he went into shock during his heart attack. It's a combination that is frequently fatal.
"Eighty to 90 percent of patients with this severe type of heart attack called shock will die during the hospitalization," said Dr. Judith Hochman, of St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital.
They are grim odds, but ones that might be evened by new research.
In a study that will be presented at this week's American College of Cardiology conference in New Orleans, doctors say heart attack patients who suffer shock can benefit from early, aggressive treatment such as bypass surgery or angioplasty, a balloon procedure to re-open blocked arteries in the heart. The study looked at patients under 75 during their six-month follow- up treatments.
"Forty-nine percent of patients died in the very aggressive treatment arm (of the study), with angioplasty and surgery, compared to 70 percent (who) died in the intensive medical therapy arm," Hochman said.
So aggressive treatment may help. The problem is, the vast majority of U.S. hospitals are not equipped to perform these procedures. Patients who get this treatment are generally stabilized first before being taken to another hospital.
That can take days, and researchers suggest that doctors should to reconsider that strategy.
"If you have a patient who comes in (at) 50 years old, 60 years old, even 70 years old … you would strongly consider immediately transferring them," Hochman said.
Doctors still recommend that anyone suffering the symptoms of a possible heart attack should go to the nearest hospital -- or call 911 -- immediately.
"Electrical instability can happen and the heart can stop beating, Hochman said. "In the mean time ... it is very important to be in a facility or ambulance where they can start the heart again if the heart stops beating."
Doctors warn that their research is still preliminary, and they are not ready to make any official recommendations. But if their data holds up, it could mean a whole new approach to the way they treat heart attack victims.
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