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New Technology From Barnes-Jewish Helps City Fire Department Treat Heart Attack Patients Faster

  • March 19, 2012
  • Number of views: 6170

ST. LOUIS – New technology purchased by several local groups, including Barnes-Jewish Hospital, is allowing the St. Louis City Fire Department to better treat heart attack patients in the area.

The use of new 12-lead EKGs on all City Fire Advanced Life Support (ALS) Units allows emergency medical personnel to send critical information to hospital emergency departments in advance of arrival. When a patient complains of chest pain, information from the EKGs helps hospitals like Barnes-Jewish activate their catheterization lab team from the field rather than when a patient arrives through the door. This can get a patient a possibly lifesaving cardiac catheterization procedure up to 20 minutes faster.

Information from the EKG is used to measure heartbeat rate, position of the heart’s chambers and the presence of heart damage.

“The City Fire Department’s use of these leads helps us save lives and helps us prevent any loss of information because we are getting official 12-lead data from the scene,” says Nelda Martin, RN, clinical nurse specialist at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center.

One patient thankful for the technology is Averil Taylor of St. Louis. Taylor, 49, began experiencing heart attack symptoms early on March 9. A call to 911 led to the arrival of EMS personnel minutes later. When the ambulance arrived at Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s emergency room, Taylor’s physicians already knew his status and had prepared the cardiac catheterization team to perform a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to open up blocked arteries.

“The doctor was already aware of my heart attack and shared the status of my condition,” says Taylor.

Thanks to the information sent in advance from EMS personnel in the field, the time from first medical contact to Taylor’s intervention was 59 minutes, with a “door-to-balloon” time (the period from which a patient arrives at the hospital to getting an intervention) of 37 minutes. The national goal for “door-to-balloon” time is 90 minutes.

“The St. Louis fire department paramedics did a great job sending in the 12-lead EKGs which directly led to fast activation of the cath lab,” says Martin.

Taylor not only survived his heart attack, he went home three days later.

At Barnes-Jewish, about 25 percent of our emergency department patients arrive via emergency medical services with the greatest majority coming from the fire department. Such efforts have helped Barnes-Jewish maintain nearly 100% door-to-balloon in time rates and achieve one of the best survival rates for heart attack in the nation according to government data.

The equipment was purchased with grants and donations from the St. Louis Fire Department Lifesaving Foundation and from community partners AT&T Foundation, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Emergency Nurses Association, Saint Louis University Hospital, and US Bank.

The addition of this equipment is a critical first step in the implementation of the American Heart Assocation’s Mission: Lifeline program in the city of St. Louis. Through Mission:Lifeline, Ambassador and Mrs. Sam Fox made a generous lead gift to provide training to more than 100 paramedics in the City of St Louis on the 12-lead EKG devices.


Barnes-Jewish Hospital is 1,288 bed teaching hospital affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO. The hospital has a 1,763 member medical staff with many recognized as "Best Doctors in America." Barnes-Jewish is a member of BJC HealthCare, which provides a full range of health care services through its 13 hospitals and more than 100 health care sites in Missouri and Illinois. Barnes-Jewish Hospital is also consistently ranked as one of America’s “Best Hospitals” by U.S.News & World Report.

Jason Merrill
[email protected]

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