Minutes count when dealing with potentially deadly heart attacks and heart disease. Patients at Texas Health Resources hospitals can now benefit from new technology that helps speed up the process of accurately diagnosing and treating heart attacks.
The new technology, called AirStrip CARDIOLOGY™, transmits EKGs through a server-based platform that allows doctors to see more data about a patient’s heart function — in more detail than ever before. This information is the most important data used by doctors to determine whether a patient is having a heart attack, called an acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and which part of the heart is affected.
Texas Health hospitals are the first in North Texas to offer this exciting new diagnostic technology. Fewer minutes spent in diagnosis and treatment can allow quicker restoration of blood flow and preservation of heart muscle. And that can promote better outcomes, fewer long-term complications and more lives saved.
The new AirStrip system advances today’s EKG technologies far beyond current systems, which are little more than PDF images of 2.5-second EKGs that have to be directly emailed to clinicians. Some hospitals still rely on faxes of the EKGs from ambulances in the field. Those printouts, sometimes blurry or distorted by the printer, are hand-delivered to doctors.
But AirStrip’s mobility platform allows clinicians to use their iPads and smart phones to access EKGs stored in the hospital’s Cardiology Information System. AirStrip stores the EKGs so that doctors can compare a patient’s current medical condition to previous heart events.
The power of the new mobility platform used at Texas Health hospitals provides additional advances.
An EKG uses 12 leads to capture 10 seconds of heart function. That’s about 10 to 12 heartbeats for the average adult. But up to now, technology has only allowed for one of the 12 leads to show all 10 seconds; the other 11 show less than 2.5 seconds of heart activity. Now, doctors can see the entire 10-second reading for each lead. That’s more than four times the amount of data that traditional EKGs provide.
The AirStrip system is especially designed to quickly identify a type of heart attack known as a STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction). These heart attacks involve complete blockage of a heart artery that rapidly leads to permanent heart damage or death.
In these situations, the best way to treat the heart attack is with an interventional cardiac catheterization procedure that involves inserting a small tube or catheter through an artery in the arm or leg. A small wire is then guided to the site of the blockage in the heart, where a tiny balloon can be used to open the coronary artery, restoring blood flow. Usually, a small metal mesh tube called a stent is inserted into the artery to help it stay open. The procedure is called percutaneous coronary intervention or angioplasty.
The amount of time that elapses from the moment of arrival to the time the balloon is inflated to restore blood flow is called door-to-balloon time. Current guidelines recommend this be less than 90 minutes, but faster times mean less heart damage.