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Heart association praises NC cardiac procedures

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CHARLOTTE -- An American Heart Association study is praising North Carolina’s health care for heart attack patients.

Researchers said guidelines implemented across the state in hospitals are setting the standard for how the rest of the country can save lives when seconds count.

“This was a collaborative effort among all the hospitals in North Carolina,” said Dr. Telly Meadows, a cardiologist at Rowan Regional Medical Center.

One-hundred-nineteen hospitals, along with more than 500 EMS systems were enrolled in the Regional Approach to Cardiovascular Emergencies Program, also known as RACE.

“Streamlining the approach of, how are we going to treat a patient who’s having a suspected heart attack,” said Meadows.

Getting the patient from their home to a hospital, reopening arteries in 90 minutes or less is the goal. At Rowan Regional their record is 54 minutes.

“We’ve been very aggressive at Rowan Regional looking at where can we shave off minutes,” said Meadows.

Guidelines in place by the American Heart Association allow EMS crews to diagnose a heart attack and send EKG reports straight to cardiologists at equipped hospitals. So when the patient arrive doctors are prepared to save their life.

“So now you’ve shaved off 10 or 15 minutes instead waiting for the ER doctor or the emergency room physician to call in the team,” said Meadows.

And North Carolina is setting the bar for how well the program works. Between July 2008 and December 2009, 7,000 patients were treated for heart attacks. For patients treated to RACE standards the death rate was 2.2 percent.

For patients who were not treated by the guidelines, deaths were higher, at 5.7 percent

“A proof of concept, and if can be done in NC then why can’t it be done in Virginia, or is it can be done here, why can’t it be done in California,” said Meadows.

And not just for heart attacks, Meadows says the medical community is discussing how the program can be applied to other emergencies, like strokes.

The RACE program will be launched in 20 other areas nationwide this summer.

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