Experts say first 90 minutes are crucial to prevent permanent damage in heart attack victims
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, September 19, 2020: Ahead of World Heart Day on 29 September, doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, part of Mubadala’s healthcare network, have warned people not to delay going to the Emergency Department if they feel chest discomfort or other symptoms of a potential heart attack.
Dr. Faisal Hasan, a Staff Physician in the Heart and Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, says that residents shouldn’t wait to get medical help if they feel unsteady or uncomfortable, and should pay close attention to changes to their body.
“When it comes to reducing the damage to the heart and saving the life of a heart attack patient, time is muscle and every minute counts. The longer a patient waits, the faster the heart muscle function continues to deteriorate,” says Dr. Hasan. “Unfortunately, we still see a lot of people come in late after experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and by then a lot of damage has been done.”
Chest pain associated with a heart attack can be often identified by its duration and severity. The pain can radiate into the left arm, neck and jaw. Other associated symptoms to look out for include, shortness of breath, dizziness and suddenly breaking into a sweat. Symptoms in women and diabetics can be atypical, such as unusual fatigue, stomach aches and nausea.
“There is no way to tell at home or in a non-medical setting whether this is related to a heart attack or a non-cardiac issue. That’s why seeking immediate medical attention is of utmost importance,” he says.
A survey of 1,000 UAE residents conducted by Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi in 2019 found that about 71 per cent have at least one major risk factor for heart diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is the official Chest Pain Centre for the Department of Health in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. When a patient arrives at the hospital’s 24/7 Emergency Department with symptoms of a heart attack, the care team conducts an electrocardiogram (ECG) test to check their heart activity within five minutes of their arrival. If the ECG confirms that they are having a heart attack, caused by blocked coronary arteries, the multidisciplinary medical team is mobilized to reopen the blockage within an hour to restore the blood flow.
“This is called the door-to-balloon time,” says Dr. Hasan. “Right after the ECG confirmation, we initiate a stopwatch to measure the time that it takes from a patient’s arrival to the time we inflate a balloon across the artery to open the blockage. The American Heart Association’s guidelines recommends that the artery be reopened within 90 minutes for best patient outcomes and at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi we have consistently done it in less than 60 minutes.”
He says that achieving the shorter timeframe is possible because of an ongoing reassessment of the workflow for excellence in patient care.
“A multidisciplinary team of physicians, nursing staff and the cardiac catherization lab members are available to handle very sick patients any time of the day, all year round. We also divide the tasks effectively and meet on a monthly basis to assess the system and close loops so that we can continue to shorten the timeframe for this life-saving procedure.”