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Texas Health Dallas, Dallas Fire and Rescue Recognized for Fastest Heart Attack Response Times

DALLAS — Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans. In Dallas County alone, 30 people suffer heart attacks every day, with victims depending on the seamless delivery of emergency medical services to increase their chances of survival.

Allena Callaway
Last fall, 79-year-old Allena Callaway was working in her garage when she felt pressure in the middle of her chest.
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Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and Dallas Fire and Rescue were recently recognized by the American Heart Association for being the best at delivering that care. They had the fastest heart attack treatment times for data submitted to the AHA Dallas Caruth Initiative during the third quarter of last year.

Response times vary across hospital systems and EMS providers, according to the AHA, and that critical time can mean the differences between life, permanent disability and death. And the survival rate of Dallas-area residents suffering heart attacks is below the national average. So the AHA Dallas Caruth Initiative was created a joint program between the American Heart Association and the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Foundation of Communities Foundation of Texas to address the issue.

The goal is to streamline protocols between participating hospitals and EMS agencies in a collaborative effort to reduce response times, increase action and coordinate data transfer. Every second counts, and unfortunately critical seconds are often lost due to ineffective coordination efforts. A $3.5 million grant from the Caruth Foundation is funding the project.

Last fall, 79-year-old Allena Callaway was working in her garage when she felt pressure in the middle of her chest. It was the same feeling she had 20 years earlier, when she suffered a heart attack. At 1:27 in the afternoon, she called 911.

Through a series of coordinated steps between EMS and Texas Health Dallas, symptom onset through arterial reperfusion (SOAR) time was reduced to 123 minutes. (Arterial perfusion is the point when blood flow is returned to the heart through an interventional cardiac procedure.) This is a significant reduction in response time when compared to the median reported response times in Texas of 171 minutes, or just under three hours.

The best way to treat a heart attack like Allena’s and prevent permanent damage to the cardiac muscle is with an interventional cardiac catheterization procedure that involves inserting a small tube or catheter through an artery in the 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.

The door-to-balloon time to restore blood flow to Allena’s heart was 21 minutes — 69 minutes less than the national standard.

Funds from the AHA Dallas Caruth Grant have been provided to EMS agencies to fill equipment gaps for the care of heart-attack patients, as well as to streamline protocols for enhanced coordination between hospitals.

About Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas is an 898-bed acute care hospital and recognized clinical program leader, having provided compassionate care to the residents of Dallas and surrounding communities since 1966. U.S. News and World Report has ranked Texas Health Dallas among the nation’s best hospitals in digestive disorders, orthopedics, and neurology and neurosurgery. An affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, Texas Health Dallas has approximately 4,000 employees and an active medical staff of more than 1,000 physicians. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

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