Many Heart Attack Patients Not Getting Aspirin in Ambulance: Study

It is widely accepted medical practice for individuals to receive aspirin immediately if it is suspected that they are having a heart attack. However, new research suggests that this advice is often not followed by emergency responders.

In a study published this month in the Emergency Medical Journal, researchers indicate that less than half of patients who experience chest pain or other heart attack symptoms are given aspirin by paramedics on the way to the hospital.

Researchers from the Emergency Medicine department at the University of Chicago analyzed data from the 2011 National EMS Information System (NEMSIS) database. They focused on more than 200,000 patients over the age of 40 who experienced heart attack symptoms and were transported to the hospital. They found that only 45% of patients who were treated by paramedics for heart attack symptoms received aspirin from them en route to the hospital.

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Patients who underwent electronic cardiogram or heart rate monitoring in the ambulance were included, but patients who experienced trauma-related chest pain and basic life support transports were excluded.

Dr. Katie Tataris, lead researcher and EMS Medical Director in Chicago, and the team of researchers also concluded Black, Asian and Hispanic patients were more likely to receive aspirin from paramedics than white patients.

Patients living in the South were also less likely to receive aspirin than patients living in other regions, like the East, West and North.

Symptoms of a heart attack may include pain or tightness in the chest, shortness of breath, and pain in the upper body.

The team also found patients with government insurance, such as Veteran’s health care, had lower odds of receiving aspirin if experiencing a heart attack. Patients with insurance through an employer were the most likely to receive the aspirin from paramedics if they were suspected of experiencing a heart attack.

“It is likely that prehospital aspirin administration for patients with suspected cardiac ischaemia remains low nationally and could be improved,” Tataris concluded.

Aspirin Known For Preventing Heart Attack Deaths

Aspirin has been shown to be a life saving treatment to those who may be experiencing a heart attack. National medical guidelines recommend patients take aspirin early on when experiencing chest pain or heart attack symptoms to reduce the likelihood of death.

Studies have shown early administration of aspirin has reduced the likelihood of death from heart attack by 23%. Doctors emphasize the practice is critical.

Researchers couldn’t say why paramedic failed to give aspiring to more than half of heart attack patients. However, they said in some cases patients may have taken aspirin before the ambulance arrived, may have a condition or allergy that prevents them from using it, or may be taking aspirin daily as a prevention. Only about two to three percent of the population has an intolerance to aspirin.

The American Heart Association recommends people with symptoms of heart attack should call 9-1-1 and ask the operator to help them determine if there is any reason not to take it during a heart attack episode.

Doctors advise anyone over the age of 35 to carry aspirin with them in the event of a heart attack emergency.


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