Improving heart attack recovery in Northern California

JAN 18, 2017
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You probably know that a heart attack is a life-threatening event. At Kaiser Permanente, developing and enhancing lifesaving treatments for heart attacks is one of our proudest achievements. Based on our extensive experience, as well as the latest research, we’re constantly finding new ways to increase survival rates and improve recovery for our patients.


Excellence built on experience


A heart attack occurs when 1 or more of the arteries that supplies blood to the heart is blocked, reducing or stopping the flow of blood. Without blood to carry it, oxygen can’t reach the affected area of the heart. If the blood and oxygen supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, the heart sustains permanent damage. Depending on how much of the heart muscle is injured, the person may be disabled or die.


The most dangerous type of heart attack happens when a coronary artery is completely blocked. This is known as an ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI heart attack.


A STEMI requires immediate intervention to open the blocked artery. Our Northern California facilities have developed great skill and efficiency in treating STEMI by doing a large number of these procedures each year.


During 2016 in Northern California, we completed:


  • Nearly 8,000 diagnostic cardiac procedures to check for heart disease
  • 4,630 total coronary interventions, which includes 800 STEMI interventions

Faster treatment improves outcomes


Ideally, a high-risk heart attack patient in need of a potentially lifesaving balloon procedure should receive it as soon as possible after reaching the hospital. This crucial period is known as door-to-balloon (DTB) time. The national standard of care set by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommends a DTB time of less than 90 minutes.


According to internal Kaiser Permanente data, our Northern California region has achieved a median DTB that’s more than 20 minutes faster than the national standard.


State-of-the-art techniques help patients heal faster


When appropriate, our physicians may choose to perform emergency and elective procedures using an artery in the wrist. This minimally invasive procedure offers:


  • Less discomfort and pain
  • Decreased risk of bleeding-related complications
  • Quicker recovery period with no mandatory bed rest

You can increase the odds of patient survival, too


While we’re proud of the care we offer our patients, there are also actions you can take to help someone having a heart attack until emergency services arrive.


First, learn to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, which include chest pain and tightness, shortness of breath, and nausea. If you think a person near you is having a heart attack:


  • Call 911.
  • Do not try to drive the person to the hospital. An ambulance will get them there much faster, and medics can start treatment on the way.
  • If the person is conscious and not allergic to aspirin, have them chew 1 adult-strength, uncoated aspirin or 4 baby aspirins.
  • If the person collapses, follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines for how to give hands-only CPR.

Making a difference together


In the unfortunate event that someone near you has a heart attack, you’ll be able to do a lot of good with just a little preparedness and know-how. At Kaiser Permanente, our highly trained, experienced doctors will be ready to step in with quick intervention and proven, lifesaving techniques. Together, we can help make a life-threatening heart attack survivable.


The American Heart Association offers community classes for a modest fee. To find a CPR class near you, go to the American Heart Association’s search page for CPR classes.


Learn more about Kaiser Permanente’s success in decreasing the frequency and severity of heart attacks among its membership.

TOPICScardiac careheart attackNorthern Californiaspecialty care