A heart attack can be a life-and-death emergency.
Every moment that a person delays in getting medical treatment increases likelihood of damage or even death to heart muscle. That's because there is a blockage that hinders blood flow to a portion of the heart, so it's being deprived of the oxygen it needs. Remember that delay can be deadly.
A person who is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack should seek medical attention within five minutes, even if unsure that it's a heart attack. The best way to get help is by calling 9-1-1 promptly.
Why Call 9-1-1?
- In nearly all cases, it's the fastest way for heart attack victims to get lifesaving treatment.
- Emergency medical services (EMS) providers can begin diagnosis and treatment when they arrive on the scene, which can be up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car.
- EMS personnel have the training and equipment that are often effective in reversing cardiac arrest.
- As more STEMI systems of care are developed, more ambulances will be equipped with 12-lead electrocardiograms (ECGs), which help diagnose a heart attack and differentiate between a STEMI and non-STEMI event.
- Equipped with information from an ECG, EMS know whether the patient should be taken to the nearby non-PCI hospital, or if the patient should be transported to the PCI-capable hospital within the STEMI system.
- Patients experiencing chest pain who arrive by ambulance rather than by car usually receive faster treatment at the hospital.
Unfortunately, approximately 50% of patients who have experienced STEMI, the most deadly type of heart attack, arrive at their local emergency department (ED) by driving themselves or having someone else take them by car. STEMI patients who walk in to the ED rather than arriving by ambulance hinder their own patient registration, quick triage to receive an ECG and ECG privacy. Furthermore, by not activating 9-1-1, heart attack patients don't give the hospital staff advance warning of their arrival, which may lead to delays in treatment.
"Act in Time" Campaign
The American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute have joined forces for a campaign called "Act in Time." Its purpose is to increase public awareness of heart attack and the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately at the onset of heart attack symptoms. To learn more about "Act in Time," visit the NHLBI website.