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Younger patients, women less likely to receive heart attack care

Researchers found that heart attack in younger people and women more often goes unrecognized, so they are not taken directly to heart centers -- which affects chance for survival.

By Tauren Dyson

March 4 (UPI) -- People who suffer a heart attack have a better chance of living if they are taken directly to a specialist, a study says.

Patients taken straight to a specialist for a primary percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, have a 17.4 percent survival rate compared to 18.7 percent for those first taken to a general hospital and transferred to a PCI, according to a study published Sunday in the European Society of Cardiology.

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The study results suggest paramedics are less likely to take younger patients to receive a PCI because of their age.

"The age of first heart attacks is getting younger, one of the reasons is because of lifestyle habits. The average age in our cohort is no longer 60, but around 40 years and we even see patients in their 30s," Krishnaraj Rathod, a researcher at Barts Health NHS Trust in London and study author, said in a news release. "Directly admitted patients were sicker but they were also older, indicating that paramedics may think heart attack is unlikely in younger adults. My message to them is 'in cases of doubt, repeat the 12 lead ECG and consider speaking to the heart attack center.'"

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The research included more than 25,000 patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction, a heart attack caused by blood blockage to the organ. When a PCI treatment is given, it greatly increases a patients chances of survival.

Yet, only 31 percent of the patients in the study were taken to receive a PCI.

"Younger patients likely wait longer to call for help because if they have chest pain, heart attack is not the first thing they think of. If you are in any doubt, phone an ambulance," Rathod said.

The researchers think paramedics need to be more accurate in assessing any patient's symptoms to help improve the survival rates.

"All patients with STEMI should be admitted directly to a primary PCI center within 90 minutes of diagnosis by electrocardiogram, which is done by ambulance teams," Rathod said. "Yet in our study nearly one-third were taken to another hospital first, indicating that a STEMI diagnosis was not made until patients reached that hospital, and they then had to be transferred. However, it must be noted that the rates of transfer directly to a primary PCI center were better in the later years suggesting better identification of appropriate patients by healthcare staff."

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