A Johns Hopkins cardiologist believed in something that many Meritus Medical Center cardiologists and cardiac nurses knew first hand: caring for heart attack patients in our community makes sense for patients and their families. The Hopkins cardiologist led a study that proved that regional hospitals, without on-site cardiac surgery, could provide care to heart attack patients instead of transferring patients to a specialty care hospital.
Five years ago, the Maryland Healthcare Commission confirmed Meritus Medical Center’s ability to perform emergency percutaneous cardiac intervention (PCI) on patients with ST segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). That’s a mouthful, but STEMIs are heart attack patients and PCI is an intervention in which a tiny balloon is inflated to reopen a blocked artery and restore blood flow to the heart. The faster blood flow is re-established, the better the patient’s chances of a good recovery.
Before getting the green light to treat heart attack patients, Meritus Medical Center invested in technology and recruited cardiac professionals from metropolitan cardiac centers to help build the hospital’s STEMI program. Up until that point, heart attack patients traveled to Baltimore or the Washington, D.C., area for treatment.
“Before our STEMI program, caring for a heart attack patient almost always involved a helicopter ride to a Baltimore area hospital—and that was dependent on the availability of a helicopter and the weather,” says cardiologist Tarek El-Sherif, MD. “We weren’t always able to comply with best medical practice.”
Best practice is a 90-minute “door-to-balloon time,” established by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The clock ticks from when the patient arrives in the emergency department to when a balloon is inflated to open the patient’s blocked arteries. Meritus Medical Center averages a 64-minute door-to-balloon time.
“There is a potential for complications when transferring a patient out of the hospital, in addition to the hardship placed on the family to travel to a tertiary care center,” says interventional cardiologist Robert Marshall, MD, a founding member of the program.
Today, Meritus Medical Center treats both heart attack patients and patients needing elective angioplasty to lessen the symptoms of coronary artery disease. The hospital performs the second highest number of cardiac interventions for non-surgical heart hospitals in the state of Maryland. “The population is clearly at risk,” adds Dr. Marshall.
When it comes to cardiac care, Meritus Medical Center keeps moving the ball forward. Since receiving the Maryland Health Care Commission’s approval, they’ve received the American Heart Association’s Mission Lifeline accreditation and become a Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) designated Cardiac Interventional Center. The hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab research team is also participating with Yale University and Duke University on cardiac research studies.
More than five years ago, if you or a loved one had cardiac trouble, you were traveling to Charm City for a better chance at life. Today, expert care is right around the corner. Happy anniversary, Meritus Medical Center’s STEMI program!