Study objectives: To assess the timing of key decisions and clinical events in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction with thrombolytic therapy.
Design: Prospective study of emergency department patients.
Setting: EDs in 11 urban and two rural hospitals.
Types of participants: Patients with presumed acute myocardial infarction for whom a decision was made in the ED to administer thrombolytic therapy.
Measurements and main results: Statistical analyses included determination of frequency of response, cross tabulation analysis, and Wilcoxon rank sum tests. In 210 thrombolytic-treated patients (mean age, 57 +/- 14.1 years), a median time of 155 minutes elapsed between pain onset and therapy; 67% of the delay was pre-ED arrival. The median time between ED arrival and the initial ECG was six minutes. The median time required for physicians to make a treatment decision was 20 minutes, followed by another median time of 20 minutes for staff to begin drug infusion. The median total hospital (door-to-needle) time was 50 minutes. Significantly shorter delays occurred in urban, teaching, and high-volume hospitals; when thrombolytics were stocked and/or started in the ED; and when emergency physicians treated without involving private attending physicians. Although 95% of patients received tissue plasminogen activator, six patients treated with anisoylated plasminogen-streptokinase activator complex experienced a significantly faster door-to-needle time (P less than .05).
Conclusion: Thrombolytics should be stocked and started in the ED. Emergency physicians should generally make the decision to administer thrombolytic therapy with reference to accepted protocols without awaiting an ED consultation from either private attendings or cardiologists.