When a heart attack occurs, minutes count. That is why Wesley Medical Center's Cardiac Task Force developed a chest-pain protocol that is initiated in the emergency department and used hospital wide for patients with chest pain and suspected heart attacks.
Using the care guidelines set by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, Wesley's chest-pain protocol guides the medical staff in treating each patient efficiently, so as much time is spared as possible.
From the moment a patient with chest pain and suspected heart attack steps into the emergency department at Wesley, the race against the clock begins. Upon arrival, the patient is expedited through triage so that the nurses can get a patient history and assessment. They initiate the treatment protocol immediately, which calls first for a dose of aspirin and an electrocardiogram (EKG). The EKG is used to detect muscle damage to the heart and is key to determining if a heart attack has occurred.
A physician then examines the patient, and blood lab tests are taken as another means of determining whether a heart attack has occurred. An IV is started early in the process so that direct venous access will be available for critical medications when a treatment plan is determined. A chest X-ray is taken to rule out pneumonia or other respiratory problems that can cause chest pain, and blood oxygen levels are tested, oxygen is administered and nitroglycerine is given as needed.
Once a diagnosis of heart attack is confirmed, a cardiologist is consulted, and ongoing treatment decisions are made. The cardiologist chooses the most appropriate treatment for the patient, which often includes either thrombolytic therapy (clot-busting drugs) or cardiac catheterization for invasive treatment of the condition.