Quality of care for patients with ST-segment-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) has improved in hospitals participating in the American Heart Association's Mission: Lifeline program, according to a new report.

The program aims to improve the application of guideline-recommended care for STEMI, which includes:

1. Use of a 12-lead echocardiogram (ECG) by emergency medical services (EMS) personnel at the site of first medical contact (FMC);

2. EMS transport directly to a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI)-capable hospital for primary PCI, with an FMC-to-device time system goal of 90 minutes or less;

3. Immediate transfer to a PCI-capable hospital for patients presenting to a non-PCI-capable hospital, with an FMC-to-device time system goal of 120 minutes or less; and

4. Fibrinolytic therapy for patients at non-PCI-capable hospitals, unless contraindicated when the anticipated FMC-to-device time at a PCI-capable hospital would exceed 120 minutes.

"This report of the first five years of Mission: Lifeline documents that very important improvements in regional care for heart attacks are possible with the collaboration of emergency medical services and networks of hospitals," said Dr. Christopher Granger of the Duke Clinical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. "Those improvements appear to result in substantial reductions in deaths."

American Heart Association

Dr. Granger and colleagues studied pre- and in-hospital care and outcomes from 2008-2012 for close to 148,000 STEMI patients admitted to 485 U.S. hospitals in 46 states, representing 656 care systems registered with Mission: Lifeline. Patients had a median age of 60; 30% were women, and the median time from symptom onset to FMC was about 50 minutes.

As reported online December 31 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, outcomes over five years included:

1. A decrease both in the proportion of eligible patients not treated with reperfusion (from 6.2% to 3.3%) and in the proportion treated with fibrinolytic therapy (from 13.4% to 7.0%).

2. No change in median time from symptom onset to FMC.

3. Increase in the use of prehospital ECGs (from 45% to 71%).

4. Improvement in all major reperfusion times: median FMC-to-device for EMS transport to PCI-capable hospitals (93 minutes to 84 minutes); first door-to-device for transfers for primary PCI (130 minutes to 112 minutes); and door in-door-out at non-PCI-capable hospitals (76 minutes to 62 minutes)

5. Increase in rates of cardiogenic shock and cardiac arrest, and an increase in overall in-hospital mortality (5.7% to 6.3%) as the number of these high-risk patients increased.