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May 01, 2019

Implantable Monitor Identifies Heart Attacks Earlier, Reduces Delay in Treatment

“Symptom-to-door” time—how long it takes to get to hospital after symptoms arise—is reduced by nearly half in study of high-risk patients.

An implantable monitor alerts patients of a potential heart attack and gets them to seek help sooner, based on a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The study also confirmed the device’s safety, showing promise for patients at high risk for heart attack who might benefit from the heart monitor.

Known as the ALERTS study (AngelMed for Early Recognition and Treatment of STEMI), the trial tested an implantable heart monitor that alerts patients showing signs of a STEMI heart attack. A STEMI heart attack, short for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, occurs when blood flow is completely blocked to a large part of the heart. It is the most dangerous type of heart attack, as a lack of blood flow can cause permanent damage to the heart or be fatal.

Since STEMI heart attacks are so deadly, immediate treatment is a must. Monitors like the one tested in this study could prove life-saving by speeding up diagnosis and treatment.

In total, the study included 907 patients across hundreds of different health systems in the United States. All participants received the implantable heart monitor but the alert system was only turned on in half of participants for the first six months of the study. All participants had a history of heart attack, putting them at high risk for a second event, and were followed for an average of 3 years.

The heart device is made by the AngelMed Guardian system in New Jersey and uses electrical activity in the heart to detect changes in blood flow. When it detects an issue, the device sends an alarm to a wireless pager provided to patients. It also triggers vibrations in the chest that patients can feel.

After analysis, researchers found that the alarm system decreased average time between onset of symptoms and arrival at a hospital from 51 minutes to 30 minutes. The device also improved diagnosis by helping determine if a patient was, in fact, having a heart attack.

The study surpassed safety goals set out before the start of the study, with complications occurring in fewer than 4% of participants.

Authors note that the study didn’t detect significant differences in outcomes that the study was designed to measure, such as heart-related or unexplained death. However, experts are encouraged by findings and believe the device could be beneficial for high-risk patients.

To improve survival rates for patients suffering STEMI heart attack, reducing symptom-to-door time is a must. That means getting a patient treatment as quickly as possible as soon as they notice symptoms.

By alerting patients when there’s irregular activity in the heart, the implantable device can help reduce the time it takes for patients to seek treatment. According to authors, this is especially useful in patients with irregular heart attack symptoms who may wait to seek treatment and are more likely to be misdiagnosed in the hospital.

The “textbook” heart attack symptoms include chest pain, nausea and pain that spreads to the arm.  These are the symptoms that most people are quick to recognize but are most common in men. Atypical symptoms, which are especially common in women, include things like abdominal pain, heartburn, clammy skin, dizziness and fatigue. It’s important to call 911 at the first sign of any of these symptoms, as a delay in treatment increases risk of complications and death.

According to authors, additional research is needed to further confirm the safety and efficacy of the device. If successful, it has the potential to save the lives of high-risk patients with a history of heart attack.

Questions for You to Consider

  • How can I reduce my risk for heart attack?

  • You can significantly reduce risk for heart attack by knowing your numbers and addressing any cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. You can also help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining a healthy weight and heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress.
  • How can I help prevent a second heart attack?
  • Patients with a history of heart attack have significantly increased risk of a second heart event. Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program can help patients regain strength after a heart attack and teach individuals how to prevent a second heart attack, like by quitting smoking, reducing blood pressure, staying active, eating healthy, and adhering to therapies advised by the doctor.

Featured Video

Women often experience heart attack symptoms differently than men. It's important for a woman to be able to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack and react quickly by calling 911.

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Infographic: Heart Attack