Study: Fewer Post-Heart Attack Hospital Deaths

By: Katie Kim Email
By: Katie Kim Email

After undergoing two heart surgeries in the last ten years, Sue Anibal says she's lucky to be alive.

"My heart was out of rhythm a lot, and they had to rush me twice by ambulance to the hospital," says Anibal.

Doctors are happy to report more success stories like Sue's. A new study shows fewer people are dying in the hospital after suffering a heart attack -- a 37% decrease from 2000 to 2007, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

"One of the most important things is what we call door-to-balloon time," says Dr. Thomas Petroff from the Ingham Regional Medical Center.

Petroff says the time after a person has a heart attack is critical.

"The minute you walk in the door and we diagnose you are having a heart attack, that we get you into the heart cath lab," says Petroff.

Health officials also credit advancements in medicine and technology as reasons for the death rate decrease.

"The medicines we have now are much more powerful than the medicines we had years ago," says Dr. Ron Voice from Sparrow Medical Center.

Survival rates for patients who suffered a heart attack improved across the board. But those who are uninsured were still much more likely to die from an attack...something doctors say might change with the introduction of the new healthcare reform law.

"The uninsured don't come as quickly, so what you end up having is more damage at home before they even get to the hospital. If the new federal law can help that, it will be a benefit to those patients," says Voice.

But doctors tell us the best way to survive a heart attack is to know the signs.

"We talk about chest pains, but we also talk about shortness of breath or some lightheadedness or some nausea," Voice says.

Healthcare officials predict the post-heart attack death rate to decrease even more in the years to come.

The study also reported that Midwestern Hospitals, including ones in Michigan, went from the highest death rate from heart attacks in 2000 to the lowest in 2007. Doctors we talked to say that's because the state has made quality care for heart attack victims a top priority.


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