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Heart Attack Signs Need Fast Action

June 22, 1997

Regarding "Such a Deal" on June 4: Immediate treatment of an evolving heart attack can reverse the deadly process that occurs when the heart is deprived of oxygen. But treatment is most effective when it is begun within the first hour of symptom onset. Unfortunately, more than half of all heart attack patients who are admitted to the hospital wait over four hours before coming to the emergency room. This delay results in unnecessary disability and death.

The advice given to call a doctor before going to the emergency room in the case of chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure could lead to disastrous results because it adds more time before definitive treatment can be started. If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911, not your doctor. If your HMO has a policy to not pay for "unnecessary" emergency room visits, clarify that this policy does not apply to individuals with heart attack symptoms. Every minute counts.

KATHLEEN DRACUP

Professor

UCLA School of Nursing

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