Lutheran Health Network Members Unite to Improve Outcomes for Acute Heart Attack Patients in the Region

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Thursday, May 8, 2008) — Lutheran Health Network officials today announced the implementation of Level 1 Heart, a chest pain system that enhances the level of care for acute heart attack patients. A phone in the Bluffton Regional Medical Center and Duke's Memorial Hospital EDs automatically connects those hospitals with Lutheran Hospital, the first accredited chest pain center in Fort Wayne. The call activates established protocols for acute heart attack patients, prior to the patient's actual transfer. Prehospital emergency personnel, cardiologists, ED physicians and staff at Lutheran, the referring hospitals and the cardiac catheterization team at Lutheran all play an integral part in the system.

"The bottom line is we can save lives or preserve the quality of life for hundreds by providing this community resource," said Joe Dorko, CEO, Lutheran Hospital. "Time is muscle, and the faster you can get a heart attack patient into a cardiac cath lab and get the vessel open, the better the outcome."

Level 1 Heart has been utilized at Dukes Memorial Hospital in Peru, Ind., since Jan. 30, and at Bluffton Regional Medical Center since mid April. The goal is to eventually involve all LHN facilities and potentially non-affiliate facilities.

"Our patients know we provide quality care close to home," said Debra Close, CEO, Dukes Memorial Hospital. "And now Level 1 Heart means that heart attack patients in our community can feel even more confident that they can come to us and get faster access to the advanced treatment they need, thanks to the collaboration within the Lutheran Health Network."

"We know that the best treatment of heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) is in the cardiac catheterization laboratory even when delayed by hours over other treatments such as clot buster medicines (thrombolytics)," said Steven Orlow, MD, medical director of the cardiac catheterization lab, Lutheran Hospital. "We also know that the very best outcomes are achieved when the treatment is provided as soon as possible after the heart attack begins. That is why we have been working so hard to develop transportation systems to get the patient to the cath lab as soon as possible."

Editorials in major cardiology journals have called for the development of a system of rapid transfer to centers capable of treating heart attacks in cardiac cath labs. Numerous U.S. and international studies have shown the superiority of transferring patients to an advanced heart catheterization center for treatment of heart attack. According to medical journals such as the "New England Journal of Medicine," even with the increased time for transportation to a different hospital, patients transferred to and treated in a cath lab have better outcomes than patients treated with a clot-busting medication at a community hospital.

"Level 1 Heart provides the region with access to state-of-the-art cardiac care in a timely way that's never been as consistent and streamlined as it is now," said B.P. House, MD, medical director, Emergency Services, Lutheran Hospital. "Patients from outlying communities can receive the necessary advanced care in the same, or nearly the same time, as nearby patients."

Lutheran Air and the Lutheran Mobile Intensive Care Units play a key role in transferring patients from outlying hospitals to Lutheran. If inclement weather grounds the helicopter, the transferring facility's local EMS or Lutheran's MICU responds.

Thanks to advanced technology with 12-lead monitors and additional training, paramedics in the field are able to recognize a certain type of heart attack, notify local medical control and receive direction from the emergency physician, who can trigger the system. Medical control determines whether the paramedics take the patient directly from the scene to Lutheran Hospital or to the local facility.

"With Level 1 Heart, there's already been a marked improvement," said Matthew Sutter, MD, medical director, Lutheran Critical Care Transport. "We're mobilizing teams faster, so we're better able to care for patients the moment they arrive."

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