Study objective: Early treatment with fibrinolytic therapy substantially decreases mortality in acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We examined delays to hospital arrival and treatment in 2 large, multinational, randomized trials of fibrinolytic therapy: Global Utilization of Streptokinase and Tissue Plasminogen Activator for Occluded Coronary Arteries (GUSTO-I) and Global Use of Strategies to Open Occluded Coronary Arteries (GUSTO-III).
Methods: We evaluated delays to hospital arrival, time from arrival to treatment, and total time to treatment in the 27,849 US patients with AMI enrolled in GUSTO-I or GUSTO-III. Time intervals were defined prospectively for total time to treatment and symptom onset to hospital arrival as 0 to 2 hours (early), 2 to 4 hours, or more than 4 hours (late). Time to fibrinolytic therapy once in hospital was prospectively defined as 0 to 1 hour (early) or more than 1 hour (late). Socioeconomic data were also obtained from patients enrolled in the GUSTO-III trial.
Results: In GUSTO-III, as in GUSTO-I, patients who arrived at the hospital later were older (64 years versus 60 years; P =.001) and more often female (35% versus 27%; P =.001), black (6% versus 4%; P =.02), and diabetic (25% versus 16%; P =.001). These groups also received treatment later once in hospital, as did patients with hypertension (48% versus 42%; P =.001), previous angina (46% versus 36%; P =.001), and previous infarction (21% versus 16%; P =.001). Higher levels of education, professional occupations, and private health insurance were associated with significantly earlier arrival and treatment. Although in hospital time to treatment has decreased (66 minutes to 48 minutes; P <.0001), time to arrival has not changed over the past 7 years, averaging 84 minutes.
Conclusion: Certain groups of patients with AMI, including the elderly, women, diabetic patients, and minorities, exhibit delays to hospital arrival and treatment in the emergency setting. Patients with higher educational levels, professional occupations, and private health insurance arrive at the hospital sooner and receive treatment more quickly. Patients and health care providers must be educated regarding high-risk populations for delay to maximize benefit from fibrinolytic therapy.