Changes in How Heart Attack Care is Delivered Saves Lives Nationwide

Contact: Amanda Jekowsky,, 202-375-6645

Today the American College of Cardiology (ACC) announced results from its national campaign to reduce “door-to-balloon” time for patients suffering heart attacks. The campaign sought to improve these times because guidelines recommended and various studies have shown that patients who are suffering from a heart attack and are treated within 90 minutes of entering the hospital ‘door’ have a higher rate of survival than those who are treated later. The ACC’s Door-to-Balloon (D2B) Alliance reached its goal of 75 percent of patients with ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) having D2B times within 90 minutes by 2008, according to a new study from the December 15-22, 2009, issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

In 2005, approximately one half of patients with STEMI who received a primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) met the recommended 90 minute D2B time. The D2B Alliance was launched in November 2006 by the ACC and 38 partner organizations to help participating hospitals lower their D2B times. By March 2008, over 75 percent of patients in those hospitals had D2B times of less than 90 minutes.

“This ambitious effort to improve timeliness of heart attack care has reported marked improvements with the vast majority of patients receiving life-saving care within 90 minutes of hospital arrival, as recommended by clinical guidelines,” said Elizabeth H. Bradley, Ph.D., professor at Yale School of Public Health, and lead author of the study. “The improvement was across the nation, not just in a few hospitals or states. The movement changed the way heart attack care is delivered – for the benefit of patients.”

The authors conducted an evaluation of D2B times in 831 hospitals participating in the ACC’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry (NCDR) CathPCI Registry, from April 1, 2005, to March 31, 2008, to examine the use of D2B Alliance-recommended strategies, changes in D2B times before and after the launch of the program, and differences in D2B times for patients treated in D2B Alliance hospitals and hospitals not enrolled in the program. The prevalence of each strategy recommended by the D2B Alliance improved significantly during the time period measured, as did the 3-year trend in patient D2B times within 90 minutes, from 52.5% in 2005 to 62.8% before the launch of the D2B Alliance in 2006 to 76.4% in 2008.

“This remarkable leap in performance is a tribute to the nation’s interventional cardiologists and other health care professionals who quickly adopted effective systems that were uncovered by NIH-sponsored research,” said Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., Harold H. Hines, Jr. Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, and co-author of the study. “What is inspiring is how the cardiologists came together to improve care – leading change within their institutions even as it required them to work harder – because it was the right thing to do.”

“The incredible success of the Door-to-Balloon Alliance represents aspects of the best of healthcare delivery in the United States; the integration of the highest medical science, technology and our medical community through the organization and integration of systems of care leading to seamless translation of evidence based medicine into clinical practice,” said Ralph Brindis, M.D., president-elect of the ACC. “The ACC and the NCDR is proud to have played a role in this key accomplishment for our nation.”

“The key is to have a leader and a team devoted to a single goal and to be persistent, even when there are setbacks,” Dr. Bradley said. “Most of what we read about in health care reform is about health care financing. This effort shows that how care is organized can have tremendous impact, and with relatively little added resources.”

More recent data collected by the ACC’s NCDR CathPCI Registry indicate that hospital performance has continued to improve beyond the end of the study period of March 31, 2008. The most recent available data, from June 30, 2009, show that 81.7 percent of eligible patients receiving primary PCI had D2B times of less than 90 minutes. The average D2B time has dropped significantly as well, from an average of 121 minutes at the end of 2005, to an average of 80 minutes as of June 30, 2009.

“This effort shows what is possible when health care professionals work together to quickly improve care through the use of strategies developed from rigorous research,” Dr. Krumholz said. “We think of breakthroughs as something that happens in the laboratory, but this research shows how we can generate knowledge by studying how top performers work and then transform the national care of patients with heart attacks.”



About the ACC:
The American College of Cardiology is leading the way to optimal cardiovascular care and disease prevention. The College is a 37,000-member nonprofit medical society and bestows the credential Fellow of the American College of Cardiology upon physicians who meet its stringent qualifications. The College is a leader in the formulation of health policy, standards and guidelines, and is a staunch supporter of cardiovascular research. The ACC provides professional education and operates national registries for the measurement and improvement of quality care. More information about the association is available online at .

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