‘Heart attack survival rate can be improved with better awareness’

It is crucial not to delay diagnosis and treatment, say experts

September 10, 2022 08:34 pm | Updated 08:34 pm IST - Chennai

Despite medical advances in heart attack management in the last five decades, nearly 8 lakh people die due to sudden cardiac arrest in India every year, with a survival rate of only 5%.

During a webinar on ‘Changes in the Scenario of Heart Attack Management’, cardiologists said the survival rate could be improved only with public awareness on how to identify symptoms at home, understand the importance of the golden hour and be trained in basic lifesaving techniques.

The webinar was presented by Kauvery Hospital and the two panellists were S. Aravindakumar, chief consultant interventional cardiologist, at the Tiruchi centre and Deep Chandh Raja, Consultant Cardiologist and clinical lead of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Kauvery Chennai.

“A heart attack pain is an excruciating one never experienced before; it comes predominantly on the left side but could also be felt on the right and radiating in the arms,” Dr. Aravindakumar said. However, diabetic patients may suffer silent heart attacks with mild or no pain.

“It is advisable not to ignore the cluster of symptoms manifesting as nausea or vomiting, swollen feet, difficulty in walking, profuse sweating, shortness of breath and palpitations out of nowhere,” he added.

“By giving a placebo, such as an aspirin tablet, and reaching the nearest hospital in the shortest possible time can save 89 out of 100 lives. A cardiac centre may not always be easily accessible. In such cases, the nearest doctor available can give a thrombolytic injection before the patient is further transported for angioplasty,” said Dr. Aravindakumar.

“When there is a delay, the heart muscles gradually die; the organ becomes weak due to the lack of blood supply, and beyond 8-9 hours in that condition, it becomes impossible to salvage the organ,” Dr. Deep said.

Acidity discomfort that lingers or a burning sensation in the chest and complaints of fatigue should be taken seriously, particularly by people over 40, those who smoke and consume alcohol and are at risk with hypertension, high cholesterol and sugar, abdominal obesity, high stress levels and lack of sleep, he added.

While genetic predisposition, unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity may lead to heart attack in any person, every minute’s delay after a heart attack increases the risk of death due to cardiac arrest. A patient needs to be given the loading dose and rushed to the hospital or the nearest doctor in an ambulance or be taken in a lying position if using a private vehicle.

There is no alternative to timely intervention before the heart takes the irreversible route. “Unfortunately, we are able to diagnose heart attacks in our neighbours, but resort to self-denial when it happens to us,” Dr. Aravindakumar said.

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