Tuesday, April 13, 2010 2:46 PM

Fresno-area cardiac patients benefit from hospital's quick response

When it comes to heart attack – minutes count – and the good news for Valley patients is Community Regional Medical Center takes fewer minutes than most when measuring time for emergency cardiac care.

This measurement is called “door-to-balloon,” starting at the time a patient comes into the emergency department and ending when a catheter guide wire crosses the culprit lesion in the cardiac cath lab.

Because of the adage “time is muscle,” (meaning that delays in treating heart attack increase the likelihood and amount of cardiac muscle damage), the federal and state guidelines recommend a door-to-balloon interval of no more than 90 minutes.

“Community Regional has met 100% compliance for two quarters in a row, said Bruce Eliason, director of cardiology at Community Regional. “This ranks us in the top 10% of hospitals in the U.S., and is an extraordinary accomplishment that I don’t believe any other hospital has met in the area.”

By reducing the amount of heart damage after a heart attack, lives will be saved and it will lead to a reduction in the long-term effects of a heart attack, including heart failure, said Dr. John Ambrose, Community’s medical director of cardiology and UCSF Fresno chief of cardiology.

“This accomplishment represents a concerted effort by the team of physicians, nurses and technologists who care for these patients and perform these procedures,” Dr. Ambrose said. “This should be great news for those who come to Community Regional for their care.”

Currently fewer than half the patients nationwide receive intervention within the guideline-recommended timeframe. This standard has become a core measure for the Joint Commission, an independent, non-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 17,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.

According to the American Heart Association, few hospitals meet this 90-minute  measure. The American College of Cardiology launched a national door-to-balloon initiative in 2006 that seeks to “take the extraordinary performance of a few hospitals and make it the ordinary performance of every hospital.”

Community Regional’s ultimate goal, Eliason said, is to accomplish a 90-minute-or-less door-to-balloon time 100% of the time. He said sometimes situations arise that prevent the hospital from meeting that goal, but even reaching 90% places Community Regional higher than the national average.

Community Regional provides the Valley with a higher level of care, offering services and specialists unavailable at other hospitals in the region. The hospital partners with the UCSF Fresno Medical Education Program, which is affiliated with University of California, San Francisco Medical School – one of the top-ranked medical schools in the country.

This story was reported by Mary Lisa Russell. She can be reached at mrussell@communitymedical.org.