Not All STEMI Patients Receive Timely Reperfusion: Considerations for Rural Emergency Departments

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2021 Nov 6;14:3103-3108. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S337197. eCollection 2021.


Early reperfusion for ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) is well known to improve patient outcomes. A review of patient records in one rural health service in New South Wales, Australia, suggested that not all STEMI patients were receiving timely reperfusion. Consequently, the aim of this study was to further investigate factors influencing clinical decision making by primary care providers in relation to rural STEMI patients. This cross-sectional observational study was in two phases, a retrospective audit of patient records and a survey of rural general practitioners (GPs). In the first phase, patients with STEMI who were referred from small rural hospitals to a regional hospital emergency department (ED) were identified through the local health district database. In phase two, information from the database informed questions for a survey distributed to the GP visiting medical officers (VMOs) at small rural hospitals in the region. The survey was designed to ascertain factors that may contribute to delays in the care of STEMI patients. Of the STEMI patients identified (n = 139), 15% (21) who were eligible for medical reperfusion were not administered thrombolysis within 4 hours of triage. Auditing of this group's records found that ECGs were inaccurately interpreted for 76% of the missed STEMI patients. In the survey, about 55% of the GP respondents said they "very much agree" with the statement that they felt competent in STEMI management. Only 64% of the GP VMOs agreed they felt competent in diagnosis and management of a failed thrombolysis and not all respondents were aware of the relevant clinical guideline. Patients with missed STEMI are at higher risk of morbidity and mortality and increased length of stay, adding burden to the patient, carer and health service. Without addressing gaps in service provision and better adherence to clinical guidelines, unacceptable delays in STEMI management in rural health services are likely to continue.

Keywords: coronary care; emergency; rural; thrombolysis.