Story by: Norton Healthcare on October 10, 2019
Blood flow is blocked through one or more arteries to the heart. Every passing minute damages heart muscle. The chances of recovery — even living — lessen with every minute.
It’s called an ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) heart attack, and it’s the deadliest kind because it is caused from a complete blockage in the heart. Restoring blood flow is all that matters, and the faster it’s done, the better the chances of recovery and preventing long-term damage to the heart muscle. In this situation, time is muscle.
In an effort like fine-tuning a race car, Norton Healthcare has worked with Louisville-area health systems, emergency medical services (EMS) providers, air transport providers, affiliate hospitals in the region and others to build the area’s first regional STEMI network. From the time the patient first seeks medical care to the time the blockage is cleared, everyone on the team knows their role.
Part of the network’s purpose is to equip EMS crews with electrocardiogram (EKG) equipment capable of detecting a STEMI heart attack. When a 911 call is made and EMS arrives to provide care, the EKG taken in the first moments is sent to the STEMI network, activating a team that begins to prepare for the arrival of a patient. In some cases, the crew can save time by skipping what may be the closest hospital and heading directly to an accredited chest pain center, like Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital, Norton Hospital, or Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, that is experienced and prepared to treat heart attacks.
Our specialists treat more people for heart and vascular care — about 250,000 every year — than any other provider in Louisville and Southern Indiana.
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The American Heart Association (AHA) recently awarded its Mission: Lifeline Receiving Gold Plus quality achievement award, the highest achievement given, to Norton Hospital. Norton Audubon and Norton Brownsboro hospitals were recognized with Mission: Lifeline Receiving Gold quality achievement awards. These awards indicate that these three facilities have met certain criteria for outcomes and speed of care that is best in class when treating a STEMI heart attack.
Norton Healthcare partners with other providers and emergency personnel who encounter STEMI patients to conduct drills and improve processes. This partnership was instrumental in the AHA awarding its Mission Lifeline: Trailblazer Award to Norton Healthcare — the only system in Kentucky to be recognized as a pioneer for regionalizing a network of care to treat STEMI hear attacks.
Norton Heart & Vascular Institute providers are highly skilled and are equipped to perform Percutaneous Coronary Intervention. PCI for short, this procedure used to be called an angioplasty with a stent.
An injection sends a thin catheter into a blood vessel, usually in the groin or wrist, and an interventional cardiologist threads it to the site of the blockage. There, a small mesh tube is placed to open the blood vessel that has been blocked by plaque buildup.
Depending on the number of arteries blocked and the location of even a single blockage, some patients may need heart bypass surgery.
The goal is to get blood flowing within 90 minutes or less. Norton Heart & Vascular Institute and its partners in the STEMI network — which reaches into rural parts of Kentucky and Southern Indiana — beat the goal nearly 100% of the time. In 2018, Norton Healthcare had a median time of 46 minutes.
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