MADRID, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Treating heart attack patients with a beta-blocker drug on the way to the hospital can greatly reduce damage to the heart, U.S. and Spanish researchers say.
Dr. Borja Ibanez, head of the Experimental Cardiology Group at CNIC and clinical cardiologist at the Hospital Clinico San Carlos in Spain, the joint lead investigator with Dr. Valentin Fuster, general director of CNIC, who also serves as director of Mount Sinai Heart and physician-in-chief at The Mount Sinai Medical Center said the study involved emergency ambulances and seven hospitals across Spain.
Metoprolol, a drug of the beta-blocker family, has been available for more than 30 years to treat arterial hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions.
In this study, the team examined the potential usefulness of metoprolol after a heart attack. They also tested it on patients before they undergo routine angioplasty, the standard treatment for removing a heart blockage that causes a heart attack and damages heart tissue. Currently, these patients receive no medication before the procedure.
The clinical trial METOCARD-CNIC was the first to test metoprolol therapy -- at a cost of $3 -- in heart attack patients undergoing standard angioplasty treatment procedures.
An acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, is caused by a sudden obstruction of one of the coronary.
The researchers said the best strategy for limiting the size of a heart attack is to carry out the angioplasty procedure as soon as possible because a delay in reopening the coronary artery could mean a larger region of damaged or necrotic tissue. When necrosis is extensive, the heart loses a large part of its pumping strength, which does not recover.
In addition to the high risk of death during the infarction, survivors are likely to suffer from heart failure and severe arrhythmias, and often may die in the months or years following the attack.
"The larger the infarct -- death of cardiac muscle -- the greater the probability that survivors will suffer these complications in the future," Fuster said in a statement.
The study, published in Circulation, said this simple, low-cost intervention with metoprolol could be easily extended throughout the world, to provide significant clinical benefit and could change current treatment practice for heart attack patients.