For heart attack victims, every second counts and the clock doesn't stop ticking at the ER door. In fact, for doctors and nurses, it's just beginning. They call it "door to balloon" time.
Dr. Venkat Surakanti is a cardiologist at Baton Rouge Cardiology Center. He says, "It used to be almost two hours, in 2005 we got it to less than two hours"
Surakanti's referring to the time it used to take to get to a patient from the ER door to a cath lab so doctors could use a tiny inflatable balloon to re-open clogged arteries and stop a heart attack.
Look at images taking of the heart during the procedure, Surakanti points out what the heart looks like before and after balloon catheterization during a heart attack. "This is where the blockage is, this is the balloon, this is after the balloon, you see the artery open up." You can see the blood flowing back into the heart.
Joe Bonsignore's was the patient being on the table when the images Surakanti was talking about were taken. Bonsignore thought his heart attack was just a bad case of heartburn right up until his balloon procedure. He told me there was no reason to think otherwise, "There's no family history. I really had no risk factors."
Cath teams strive for a "door to balloon" time of 90 minutes or less. Bonsignore is lucky. He made it to the Baton Rouge General's cath lab in 47. He says, "I could feel the balloon pop and then it just (poosh), it was like a whoosh and ever symptoms in my heart went away."As a result Bonsinore not only survived his heart attack, there wasn't any muscle damage. It was if he'd never had a heart attack at all.
According to Surakanti, "Most of the hospitals that do these kind of procedures have a dedicated cath lab team who are available 24/7 do these procedures." Most major hospitals have "door to balloon" teams. But doctors say that's no substitute for knowing the warning signs of a heart attack and calling 911 as soon as soon as you notice one of them. Doctors may be able to stop a cardiac event in the cath lab, but they can't reverse the damage done in the time it took to get to ER.
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