Emergency medical technicians, physicians, nurses and other hospital staff have dramatically reduced the time it takes for heart attack patients to undergo angioplasty, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The report notes that the period from hospital arrival to angioplasty is called door-to-balloon time, or D2B. “For ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) patients, quick response is critical because this type of heart attack is caused by a complete blockage of blood supply to the heart,” the Heart Association said in announcing the report. Nearly 250,000 Americans suffer this type of heart attack every year. Ideally, angioplasty is performed within 90 minutes of hospital arrival.

In what the association calls "one of the most comprehensive analyses of angioplasty timeliness," Yale University researchers found that:

• 91 percent of patients were treated in a D2B time of less than 90 minutes in 2010, compared with 44 percent in 2005.
• 70 percent were treated in less than 75 minutes in 2010, compared with 27 percent five years earlier.
• The median time from hospital admission to emergency angioplasty declined from 96 to 64 minutes during the years studied.

"This remarkable improvement demonstrates what we can achieve when we work together and is a tribute to the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals that applied the information from the research studies on how best to deliver care to ensure that patients are treated rapidly," said Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D., lead author of the study, and Harold H. Hines Jr. professor of medicine and epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn.

Researchers analyzed nationwide data collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from patients undergoing emergency angioplasty Jan. 1, 2005, to Sept. 30, 2010, including those not covered by Medicare.