Ambulance-from-iStockA new trans-satellite wireless 12-lead ECG can identify the most severe type of heart attack swiftly and save significant time from ambulance to angioplasty, according to research presented this week at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014.

An ECG measures the electrical activity of the heart and helps medical personnel determine if a person had an ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). Angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention, is a procedure in which an inflatable balloon opens a blocked artery to restore blood flow to the heart.

During this study, ECG recordings were taken by ambulance staff wherever the patient might be (i.e., home or work). The recording was transmitted wirelessly through Satellites to the Heart Hospital where specialist cardiologists selected the best treatment strategy before the patient arrived at the hospital. This gave the operating team a chance to prepare for the patient’s arrival so the procedure to open the blocked artery could be performed without delay.

Of 510 heart attack patients who had PCI in Doha, Qatar, 55 percent got a wireless ECG and were sent directly to the Heart Hospital; 45 percent didn’t have a wireless test and went to other hospitals first before being transferred to the Heart Hospital. All patients were in their 50s, 73 percent Asian and 23 percent Arab.

Researchers reported:

  • Hospital arrival to the start of angioplasty (door to balloon time) was about 53 minutes for the wireless-ECG Heart Hospital group and about 104 minutes for the group that went to other hospitals first.
  • The delay from symptoms to balloon time was 36 minutes shorter in the wireless-ECG group.
  • The wireless-ECG group had shorter hospital stays (3.4 days compared to 4.3).
  • The wireless-ECG group had lower in-hospital death risk (2.5 percent compared to 3.5 percent).