A new study from the University of Surrey, published today in the journal Heart, has identified a positive link between the survival of heart attack patients and the use of an electrocardiogram (ECG), by ambulance crews.
Researchers, funded by the British Heart Foundation (BHF), analysed data from almost half a million adults admitted with a heart attack to hospitals in England and Wales, noting whether patients who came to hospital by ambulance had had an ECG test or not.
The results showed that the number of patients who died within 30 days of hospital admission was significantly lower when an ECG test had been carried out by ambulance crews. The study also revealed that a third of patients admitted to hospital with a heart attack are not having the test in the ambulance, with certain groups of patients, including women, the elderly and people from black and minority ethnic groups, less likely to have an ECG. A further important finding from this study was that having an ECG in the ambulance was also the strongest predictor of a patient receiving treatment to reopen a blocked coronary artery. The use of this treatment is proven to reduce heart damage and improve the survival of patients.
Lead author, Professor Tom Quinn from the University of Surrey, said: "Every NHS ambulance is equipped with an ECG machine. While there is evidence from other countries that having an ECG test in the ambulance leads to faster treatment, our study is the first to determine that the test is actually associated with improved survival after a heart attack.
"Ambulance services in the NHS compare favourably to countries such as the USA, where only a quarter of such patients get an ECG, but we need to do more to ensure that the groups we identified as not getting the test have improved care.
"Hopefully our results will reinforce to paramedics the importance of carrying out an ECG when they suspect a heart attack, as well as flag up the types of patients who are currently less likely to receive this test, leaving them more vulnerable to poor outcomes."
Dr Mike Knapton, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said: "This research suggests that if someone suffering a suspected heart attack has a simple ECG test before they reach hospital, it can help save their life. The test helps paramedics provide the most appropriate treatment outside hospital and means that hospital staff are more prepared when the patient arrives.
"The results, made possible by studying huge numbers of medical records, clearly support existing guidelines on using an ECG test before patients reach hospital. So it's vital that all patients who show signs of a heart attack have this simple test."
Media enquiries: Peter La, Media Relations Office at the University of Surrey, Tel: 01483 689191 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
What is an electrocardiogram?
An electrocardiogram - or ECG - is a simple and useful test which records the rhythm and electrical activity of your heart. For further info please visit: http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/tests/ecg.aspx
Data for the study was provided by the Myocardial Infarction National Audit Project, hosted by the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes research (NICOR) at UCL.
The Guardian Good University Guide
The University of Surrey has recently entered the top ten of the Guardian University League table at number 8. The table is part of the Guardian Good University Guide, which is published annually as a guide to all UK universities ranked according to teaching excellence.
For more details see here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/shortcuts/2013/jun/03/university-of-surrey-guildford-top-10
About the University of Surrey
The University of Surrey is one of the UK's leading professional, scientific and technological universities with a world class research profile and a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. Ground-breaking research at the University is bringing direct benefit to all spheres of life - helping industry to maintain its competitive edge and creating improvements in the areas of health, medicine, space science, the environment, communications, defence and social policy. Programmes in science and technology have gained widespread recognition and it also boasts flourishing programmes in dance and music, social sciences, management and languages and law. In addition to the campus on 150 hectares just outside Guildford, Surrey, the University also owns and runs the Surrey Research Park, which provides facilities for 110 companies employing 2,750 staff.
About the British Heart Foundation
Coronary heart disease is the UK's single biggest killer. For over 50 years we've pioneered research that's transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many mums, dads and grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people's lives.
For more information visit bhf.org.uk.
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