Health Team

WakeMed Staffed 24/7 for Heart Attacks

Posted April 10, 2008

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— Time is critical when a heart attack happens: How quickly a patient calls 911 and how quickly he or she gets specialized medical care can make the difference between life and death.

Hospitals, though, commonly put doctors on call on nights and weekends, so treatment might be delayed while physicians rush in.

WakeMed Raleigh has been fully staffed with cardiologists – 24 hours, 7 days a week – since January. They can more quickly clear heart-attack patients' arteries. Once the blockage is gone, the initial threat of a heart attack is over.

"The outcomes in terms of patient survival and patient functioning after the heart attack [are] going to be even better," Dr. Lee Jobe, a cardiologist at WakeMed, said.

Only three other hospitals in the state – including Duke Medical Center in Durham and UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill – have round-the-clock staffing by cardiologists.

Seventy-year-old Leslie Strickland, of Goldsboro, found himself stricken with a heart attack one Saturday. "All across my chest was hurt, and the pain graduated down into my arms and then up into my neck," he said.

Doctors at Wayne Memorial Hospital stabilized Strickland and got him airlifted to WakeMed for surgery to open his blocked heart arteries. He arrived at WakeMed within an hour.

Since WakeMed started round-the-clock staffing in the catheterization lab, doctors have cut down the time it takes for heart-attack patients to receive an electrocardiogram (EKG) and get into the lab for surgery.

The goal is to give suspected heart-attack patients an EKG within 5 to 10 minutes after they arrive in the emergency room. WakeMed cardiologists can bring patients to the cath lab within 50 minutes or less – under the American College of Cardiology's recommendation of 90 minutes.

Strickland said he saw that quick care in action: From his arrival to his surgery, only 22 minutes passed.

"They were ready to go when I got here. They worked on me immediately," he said. "They saved my life."

Strickland also underwent triple bypass surgery and was ready to go home within four days.

Doctors stress that how long it takes patients to call 911 also affects their chances of survival and recovery.

Know the symptoms of heart attacks: chest discomfort lasting for more than a few minutes, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating and pain or pressure in the neck, arm or jaw. Women might not experience chest pain but are more likely to feel pain in their neck or jaw.

Take an aspirin immediately. Wait for an ambulance; don't drive yourself or have someone else drive you. Emergency medical workers can evaluate you and call the hospital before your arrival.


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  • tgw Apr 14, 2008

    If you can get passed the waiting room in the ER, WakeMed is wonderful. The nursing care at WakeMed is the best you can find. I would never go anywhere else for a heart problem. CCU is awesome.

  • diver Apr 11, 2008

    I work at wakemed, and no offense but there is really no comparison between First Health and us.

  • spacecowgirl73 Apr 11, 2008

    FYI, many hospitals have cardiologists on call 24 hours. I work at First Health (Pinehurst) and there are cath lab staff and cardiologists on call every day. The OR works the same way.
    The key is the presence of a cath lab and OR equipped for open heart surgery. If your local hospital does not have these resources, then you would be airlifted to a different facility, thus increasing the chances for permanent heart damage.