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August 3, 2010

Calif. hospital launches 'Lifenet' to treat heart attacks sooner

By Diana Samuels
The San Jose Mercury News

EL CAMINO, Calif. — When a clot completely blocks an artery during a heart attack, every minute can mean more damage.

To help save such precious minutes, El Camino Hospital has launched a "Lifenet" system with the Mountain View Fire Department and American Medical Services.

"Lifenet" allows emergency responders to press a button and immediately transmit a patient's electrocardiogram (EKG) data from an ambulance to the hospital — or even to a cardiologist's smartphone — so doctors can prepare for patient before they arrive.

"We can set in motion the complicated team that's involved in doing an emergency angioplasty, even before the patient gets here," said Dr. Chad Rammohan, interventional cardiologist and medical director of the hospital's Chest Pain Center.

Specifically, the system lets doctors determine whether a patient is having a STEMI (ST elevation myocardial infarction) heart attack, in which a clot completely blocks an artery. Treating a STEMI heart attack is a race against time — the American Heart Association recommends that a patient's artery be opened within 90 minutes of his or her arrival at the hospital.

Almost 400,000 people in the U.S. have STEMI heart attacks each year, according to the American Heart Association.

"The quicker we can get that artery open, the less the heart muscle is damaged and the better people do," Rammohan said.

Rammohan said the Lifenet system, made by Medtronic, can shave 10 to 15 minutes in preparation time. Hospital officials say El Camino is the first hospital in Santa Clara County to use Lifenet.

Mountain View fire Chief Bradley Wardle called the technology "the best there is at this point in time."

The fire department has used an advanced "12-lead EKG" system for about five years, which allows the emergency responders to perform accurate EKGs in the field, he said.

Before the Lifenet system was launched last week, the fire department could only transmit the data if a residential phone line was nearby, department spokeswoman Jaime Garrett said.

Garrett said it was "sporadic at best, because you had to be in the exact right conditions, in somebody's home that had a land line, that had all those different things."

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