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Heart Attacks - Get With The Guidelines

Recently, Reader's Digest published a series called 6 Mistakes Your Doctor May Be Making.  In this series, the authors asked physicians about common mistakes made by doctors.  One of those six categories related to treatment for potential heart attacks.  According to the article, the mistakes your doctor may be making are:

  • "not giving emergency treatment fast enough, 
  • skipping important aftercare 
  • or missing other critical steps

The article goes on to state that, immediate treatment with aspirin, clot-busting drugs, angioplasty, or other proven steps could mean the difference between life and death. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have specifically set forth these guidelines as treatment modalities.  However, according to the article, fewer than 50 percent of patients get clot-busting therapy within 30 minutes; about 25 percent leave the hospital without a referral to cardiac rehabilitation, which is known to be valuable. Other steps can be neglected, as well, if only because a doctor may be distracted by a page or another interruption. In the hectic atmosphere of a hospital, "when you rely only on a doctor's memory, critical therapies and timetables are easily overlooked," says Gregg C. Fonarow, MD, associate chief of cardiology at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center. 

The American Heart Association started a program called Get with the Guidelines (GWTG), for hospitals to use as a reminder system. "We view it like an airline pilot checklist. Even if the doctor gets distracted, things are less likely to fall through the cracks," explains Eric Peterson, MD, director of cardiovascular research at Duke Clinical Research Institute. 

According to Reader's Digest:   If you have serious heart disease, check whether your local hospital takes part in the GWTG program. A third of all hospitals do, some 1,450 in all. You can also search for the 600-plus "recognized hospitals" that best comply with the guidelines at americanheart.org/getwiththeguidelines.