A heart attack occurs when an artery in the heart is blocked by a clot, and the heart muscle supplied by that artery is therefore deprived of oxygen. This causes chest pain, and the muscle is in jeopardy of dying. Untreated, these blockages can permanently damage the heart causing death or an otherwise reduced quality of life.
As with critical injuries, there is a window of time (generally thought to be two hours from symptom onset) in which the heart may be effectively treated before it, and the patient, die or are disabled. At any time in this window, the compromised heart may stop or otherwise require emergency treatment to keep the patient alive. Out of hospital, HEMS ALS has proven effective in dealing with these emergencies. Ultimately, these patients need either special medications or surgical procedures at specialist cardiac intervention hospitals to break up the blood clot, allowing blood and the oxygen it brings to return to the affected heart muscle. Done within those two hours, the heart may be undamaged or damage may be limited, allowing the patient not only to live, but to recover a normal life.
Similar to trauma centers, cardiac intervention centers have been developed to provide the more effective of these increasinglycommon surgical treatments. The scarcity of cardiac intervention centers, particularly outside of urban areas, suggest a role, supported by studies to date, for HEMS in quickly transporting patients, even patients whose hearts have stopped and been restarted, from remote hospitals to these centers.