New ambulance equipment can cut substantially the time it takes to treat potential heart attack patients, local officials say.
A computer system in the ambulance will be able to transmit patient information to the nearest hospital, County Mayor Claude Ramsey said Tuesday at a news conference.
"When the patient arrives at the hospital, there'll be a huge amount of time saved," he said. "It's a significant improvement of our service."
When it comes to saving someone who's had a heart attack, the more time that lapses before medical attention is administered, the more heart muscle that will die, said Dr. Jim Creel, director of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine Chattanooga Emergency Medicine Residency Program.
"Time is muscle," he said.
During the news conference at the Hamilton County EMS station on Long Road, Mr. Ramsey said the county approved spending about $21,000 plus a $750 monthly fee for Bluetooth wireless service for the system, which transmits patient information over the Internet.
Representatives of Erlanger hospital, Memorial Hospital and Parkridge Medical Center were at the news conference to show support for the effort.
"This has become the community standard," said Dr. Creel, who has been helping the county with the program since 2004.
WHERE IT GOES
* A paramedic enters patient information into a compute in the back of the ambulance.
* The computer transmits the information to the ambulance's front computer, which is linked to a cellular network.
* The ambulance computer sends the information to the nearest hospital.
* At the hospital, the information is given to a doctor who can determine how the patient should be treated.
Most heart attacks occur when arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle are blocked, depriving it of oxygen and often killing the muscle cells.
Dr. Ted Wright, chief cardiac officer for Memorial, said the current standard is 90 minutes from when the patient arrives at the hospital to when the artery is opened.
The new equipment will change that, he said.
"The time balloon is (now) going to be measured from the scene," he said.