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A Cheap Treatment That Cuts Cardiac Arrest By Half


An inexpensive mixture of glucose, insulin and potassium given by paramedics to patients showing heart attack symptoms cut the rate of cardiac arrest in half and reduced the amount of damage to heart tissue, a new study has found.

Researchers at Tufts Medical Center said the study was the first to test the effectiveness of giving the simple treatment at the first signs of a threatening heart attack, rather than waiting for a diagnosis to be confirmed at the hospital, which can take hours.

"More people die of heart attacks outside the hospital than inside the hospital," study author Harry Selker, M.D., of Tufts told Reuters. "We wanted to direct our attention to those patients."

The study was presented this week at a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago. (For more news from the conference, see link below to story on bypass versus stents for clogged arteries.)

Selker and his colleagues trained paramedics to administer the treatment after an electrocardiograph determined the patient could be having an heart attack.

Although the injection did not stop the heart attack from occurring, patients who received the treatment were 50 percent less likely to go into full cardiac arrest, in which the heart suddenly stops beating, or to die, than those who received a placebo.

In addition, the treatment reduced the severity of damage to the heart tissue from the heart attack in the study's 911 subjects. In those who received the glucose mixture, two percent of heart tissue was destroyed, compared with 10 percent in those who received a placebo.

Even more encouraging was that even if the heart attack symptoms turned out to be a false alarm -- the case in 23 percent of the study's patients -- the treatment did not appear to have any harmful effect, researchers said. In other words, giving the treatment either helped or did no harm.

And it only cost about $50.

"We wanted to do something that is effective and can be used anywhere," Selker said.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In other health news:

In the bypass vs. stents debate, this round goes to bypass. In the see-sawing debate over which is better for restoring blood flow to the heart through a blocked artery, bypass surgery or the less invasive angioplasty (aka stents), new research says older people have somewhat better long-term survival odds with bypass. CNN reports that analysis of about 190,000 adults over age 65 found that survival rates were the same between the two procedures at the one-year mark, but 84 percent of bypass patients were still alive after four years, compared to 79 percent of patients who got stents.

Getting a doctor's appointment tougher when you're on Medicaid. Americans on Medicaid have a harder time getting a prompt doctor's appointment, which may help explain why some end up going to the ER, a new study finds. Of the Medicaid patients who reported obstacles to getting prompt care, one-half to one-third had more than one ER trip in the past year, according to Reuters.

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