Monday, September 30, 2002

Speed of treatment key
in preventing heart damage

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bob Huggins was likely within an hour of boarding an airplane before suffering a heart attack. If the University of Cincinnati basketball coach had been on the plane, the outcome might have been far different.

        “The best thing is what happened to him - to go immediately to a cardiac (catheter) lab and identify the culprit. You can often put a stent in immediately and restore blood flow,” said Lynne Wagoner, a cardiologist and medical director of the heart failure/transplant program at University Hospital.

        “The key to preventing heart damage is to recognize symptoms and to seek help immediately,” Dr. Wagoner said, adding that there's a four- to six-hour window for minimizing damage. “When heart muscle dies, it doesn't work. The part of the muscle that the artery supplied doesn't move, and down the road that patient is likely to develop heart failure.”

        Huggins suffered a heart attack Saturday morning at the Pittsburgh airport and was taken to a hospital. He underwent surgery to implant a stent - a tiny metal mesh device used to keep a clogged artery open - at The Medical Center in Beaver, 24 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

        Had he boarded the plane, the delay in receiving advanced care could have been devastating.

        A heart attack occurs when one of the coronary arteries blocks completely. When that happens, the heart muscle that the blood vessel supplies begins to die.

        When the heart muscle begins to die, a person experiences pain, sweatiness and shortness of breath. The person may pass out or even die, Dr. Wagoner said.

        Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in the nation and heart attacks are one of the leading causes of cardiac death, according to the 2002 Heart and Stroke Statistical Update published by the American Heart Association.

        Huggins is one of an estimated 1.1 million Americans who will have a heart attack this year. More than 45 percent of heart attacks are fatal.


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