Two years ago, North Carolina was a bad place to have a heart attack. Today, you might consider yourself lucky to even be near the state.
A statewide project, considered the most ambitious in the nation, has put a focus on getting patients faster care. Results reporting at an American Heart Association meeting in Florida today showed what one Yale cardiologist calls "magnificent" results.
In the project, 55 small hospitals agreed to send appropriate patients to 10 larger ones where they could get an angioplasty. The procedure re-opens clogged arteries with a tiny balloon, but many small hospitals lack the specialized suites needed for the work.
Researchers compared the care of more than 2,000 patients before and after the project began. Among their findings: more patients got care at top heart hospitals and got it more quickly.
Neighboring states have also benefited. One patient from Virginia who lives near the North Carolina border says he was on his floor having a heart attack at 1:30. He was flown to Duke University Medical Center and finished with his angioplasty within two hours.