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Expert review

The role of the emergency services in the optimisation of primary angioplasty: experience from London and the Heart Attack Team

Early ambulance services often confined their activities to a “scoop and run” approach, conveying sick patients quickly to the nearest emergency department. With the advent of modern ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) management and primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PPCI), the role of the emergency medical service (EMS) has expanded significantly. This review discusses the critical and evolving collaboration between the EMS and the heart attack centre.

Speed of reperfusion is a major determinant of outcome in STEMI and, whilst the patient delay (symptom to call time) has a central role in this, system delay (first medical contact to balloon time) is linked to mortality and is used to measure the response of a PPCI programme and is a key element of contemporary guidelines.

In addition to rapid diagnosis and transfer to the heart attack centre, the EMS has to deliver a growing number of established treatments including resuscitation and drug therapy. EMS also continually needs to develop expertise in new techniques such as advanced management of cardiac arrest patients, including automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and will need to deliver newer therapies if trials support their use, including cooling and preconditioning.

Ultimately, the EMS has a central role in the management of STEMI patients which needs to be fully aligned with the heart attack centres. This integration of services is perhaps best regarded as the Heart Attack Team.

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