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Counsel That You Can Trust & Depend On


Guy DiMartino
Nov. 4, 2014

The failure to timely transfer heart attack patients can lead to unnecessary deaths because the blockage in the blood vessel is not opened quickly enough to allow blood supply to the heart muscle.

Rural and community hospitals are the backbone of healthcare throughout Indiana, however, the hospital has a duty to recognize if the patient can be properly treated at the facility or be transferred to more appropriate hospital.

Heart attacks are common. The most common cause of a heart attack is a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries. Medical experts agree that the key to successful treatment of a heart attack victim is to restore blood supply to the blocked area of the heart. In medical terms this is called reperfusion, and reperfusion is performed by angioplasty (placing a balloon in the coronary artery and opening up the blockage) with or without stenting (placing a structure in the artery to keep in open). Researchers have determined that heart attack victims have the best outcomes when the patient is in the catheterization lab and undergoing angioplasty within 90 minutes of the event.

The Scenario

A patient walks into or is taken by ambulance to the closest rural or community hospital with clear signs and symptoms of a heart attack. An EKG is taken and shows clear ST segment changes consistent with a heart attack. The hospital doesn't have a cardiac catheterization lab and the hospital does not set up immediate transfer to an appropriate hospital. The patient either dies or has a severely damaged heart, which could have been avoided with timely transfer.

The Medical Research Supporting Transfer within 30 Minutes

An article published by JAMA in June 2011 discussed this matter at length.

  • The article reports the following:4 out of 10 heart attack patients go to hospitals that do not the ability to do a catheterization

  • In only 11% of these patients is transfer to a more appropriate hospital begun within 30 minutes

  • If the patient is able to get to the cardiac catheterization lab within 90 minutes of the event the outcomes are much better

Most heart attacks are not difficult to diagnose. These patients show a specific pattern of EKG and blood enzyme changes. In many cases the emergency department can delay transfer to the appropriate hospital because they are just not vigilant enough and the patient pays for the lack of vigilance with his life or health.

If you have any questions about a possible claim for failure to timely diagnose or treat a heart attack at a local Northwest Indiana hospital, call our Michigan City medical malpractice lawyer at (219) 874-4878 fill out the internet consultation form on the right side of the screen.