Saving Time, and Hearts
When Essex resident Charles Schlauch experienced chest pains early in the morning last July, he did what experts recommend. He called 911. That was the first thing that helped Schlauch, 54, survive and fully recover from what turned out to be a heart attack. The second thing was a system called LifeNet in the ambulance that picked him up.
As they raced to MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, paramedics used LifeNet to transmit Schlauch’s heart rhythms, or ECG readings, wirelessly to physicians in MedStar Franklin Square’s Emergency Department (ED). Before the ambulance pulled up, the ED staff had alerted a cardiologist who, after examining the ECG and recognizing a heart attack, had the appropriate cardiac team assembled and ready to perform a primary angioplasty to open up the artery and restore blood flow.
“I probably wouldn’t be alive today,” says Schlauch when he thinks what would have happened otherwise. “By the time paramedics got me there, everybody was gowned and ready to go.”
The difference between a suspected heart attack patient coming into the ED and a known heart attack patient coming into the ED can be lifesaving. In Schlauch’s case, even though it was just after 5 a.m., the team was ready to treat him when he came in the door.
That’s exactly what MedStar Franklin Square was aiming for when the hospital purchased and donated LifeNet devices for use in Baltimore County ambulances a little over a year ago. Since then, LifeNet has made it possible for heart attack victims to get treatment an average of 15 to 20 minutes earlier than was the case before. That makes a tremendous difference—in some cases, the difference between life and death, according to Sriram Padmanabhan, MD, chief of cardiology at MedStar Franklin Square.
“We always say ‘time is muscle,’ and that’s very true. The sooner you open the artery, the less damage there is to the heart,” he explains. “That can lead to better heart function, fewer complications and less chance of irreversible damage.”
Schlauch spent just three days in the hospital before heading home. He returned to work shortly after and is doing well today.