Closing the Time-to-Balloon Period for STEMI Patients: How Seamless Communications Can Change Patient Outcomes

Heart attacks are more than just pain and clutching at your chest. While your heart is suffering from a blocked artery, it’s not getting the oxygen it needs, and the cells could be dying. STEMI heart attacks are particularly dangerous, and they can cause a higher rate of death or disability than other types of heart attack if time-to-treatment is too slow.

Getting the proper treatment fast is essential, but how can emergency teams work smarter to improve outcomes for STEMI patients? Time-to-balloon, or better understood as how long it takes from the moment the patient starts receiving emergency care to the moment that artery is reopened. Reducing time-to-balloon, increasing early identification of blocked arteries, and having seamless team communications are essential, therefore saving more lives is possible with efficient and innovative telemedicine technologies.

Understanding STEMI

STEMI stands for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction. Unlike non-STEMI heart attacks, STEMI indicates that an artery within the heart has become completely blocked. Non-STEMI heart attacks usually indicate a partially blocked artery. STEMI patients suffer the “classic” heart attacks symptoms of:

  • Chest pain
  • Gasping for breath
  • Queasiness or vomiting
  • Feeling hot or sweating
  • Feeling light-headed or dizzy
  • Palpitations
  • Feelings of dread

The tricky thing about STEMI is that these symptoms are not exclusive to this type of heart attack. Someone who has never experienced a heart attack before may even write some of these symptoms off as severe indigestion or symptoms of anxiety. If STEMI sufferers aren’t treated correctly and quickly, they could die or suffer long-term health conditions that severely reduce the quality of their life.

That’s why early identification and intervention are so vital. An EMS crew that can quickly assess if the individual is suffering a STEMI heart attack and pass the critical information along to the hospital teams for rapid activation can accelerate treatment for the patient.

Door-to-Balloon Time Explained

Door-to-Balloon time, or time-to-balloon, indicates how long a patient has to wait between emergency care and having their artery opened back up. In some instances, thrombolytic drugs can be used to dissolve a clot. In many instances, however, a percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is the recommendation. This involves installing a stent in the affected artery to physically open it back up again. This stent includes a “balloon,” which is a part of the equipment which literally inflates to gently expand the artery, allowing the blood to flow back into the heart and for recovery to start.

Door-to-balloon time, or D2B, is critical as it helps doctors and aftercare specialists understand how long the heart was without the right amount of oxygen. This can help assess the recovery time that might be required for the patient and what type of lifestyle changes or differences in quality of life might be expected.

The Importance of Early Identification

D2B time can be affected by several factors, including the availability of cardiology staff, liaising with the patient’s family, or transport issues. Identifying a STEMI patient and getting them the proper care quickly is essential because every minute that artery remains blocked, a small part of the heart is dying.

Late-treated STEMI patients may suffer ongoing heart conditions for the rest of their lives. They may also have permanent blood pressure issues, which need to be controlled with drugs such as amlodipine. Extensive aftercare includes medications, physical therapy, and often significant lifestyle changes. For example, anyone who has suffered a STEMI heart attack must give up smoking and may be advised to give up certain strenuous activities or cut out alcohol. The individual will surely need to change their diet and exercise routine, too.

Sufferers may also have continuous weakness of the heart, which can lead to arrhythmia and further heart attacks. Early identification allows doctors to treat the clogged artery quickly and reduce the risk of these negative outcomes.

Technology and Telemedicine: Saving Lives with Seamless Communications

Of course, communication is the key to transporting a patient quickly to the right treatment. If an EMS team can transfer information ahead to the hospital, clinic, or doctor, they can be confident that once they arrive, a qualified team and room will be in place for the patient. That’s where solutions like e-Bridge, an EMS telehealth innovation from General Devices, come into their own. e-Bridge is a mobile telemedicine app that allows the EMS team to share any and all information with the team at the hospital in real-time. That includes photos, audio, video, 12-leads, diagnosis, and ETA information. EMS organizations and hospital providers can contact General Devices directly to learn how their solutions have helped other organizations save lives by reducing time-to-balloon.

Prior to technology like e-Bridge, research showed that EMS teams that used consumer apps to liaise with hospital teams enjoyed a greater rate of success with STEMI patients. e-Bridge goes beyond the limitations of public platforms to provide a HIPAA-secure and live communication channel to improve outcomes for patients. Seamless team communication streamlines workflow processes and reduces the time-to-treatment significantly. For STEMI patients, this could mean the difference between a return to their previous quality of life and the genuine possibility of disability or death.

Baystate Medical Center (Springfield MA) had an outstanding door-to-balloon time of just 15 minutes by using GD’s mobile telemedicine app e-Bridge which improved processes and patient care for STEMI. Read more and watch the video here.

If you want more information on the latest developments in telemedicine or telehealth and how it’s saving the lives of STEMI patients, contact General Devices at


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