Press Releases & Announcements

Enhanced Emergency Response System Strengthens ‘Chain of Survival’ for Heart Attack Victims

Thursday, May 14, 2009 - Danbury, CT

New enhancements to the region’s emergency response system will strengthen the “chain of survival” for heart attack victims brought to Danbury Hospital’s Emergency Department for potentially life-saving treatment.

Thanks to the generosity of donors, Danbury Hospital will upgrade 25 paramedic units in the Greater Danbury area with new electrocardiogram (ECG) equipment and multi-tech modem technology to more quickly and efficiently relay cardiac data from the field to the Emergency Department. This enables the hospital to activate its interventional cardiology team before patients arrive.

“We expect to see even better patient outcomes thanks to this new technology,” said Matthew Cassavechia, Director of Emergency Medical Services at Danbury Hospital. “Timely treatment of heart attacks is crucial to saving lives and preserving heart muscle.” Danbury Hospital provides paramedic services and training to municipalities throughout the region.

Celebrating Emergency Medical Service Week

The enhancements come as the nation celebrates Emergency Medical Service Week beginning May 17 to draw attention to the important role that emergency medical services (EMS) personnel play in the health of the community. “These dedicated men and women are ready 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deliver life-saving treatment to those in need,” he said.

Generous donors make life-saving gift

The upgrades were made possible thanks to the generosity of two families:

  • Richard and Carol Steiner of Steiner Inc. and Berkshire Corporate Park in Bethel
  • Ervie (Bud) and Carolyn Hawley of The Hawley Companies in Danbury

“We are extremely grateful and invigorated by these donations because they strengthen the chain of survival for people who have experienced a heart attack,” said Cassavechia.

Danbury Hospital will offer these upgrades not only to the paramedic units it manages, but to all paramedic units in Greater Danbury and the surrounding New York area. “As a regional cardiac care center, we believe any paramedic unit that brings patients to Danbury Hospital should have these technological capabilities,” he said. “It’s all about saving lives.”

At the forefront of cardiac care

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death among men and women in the United States. The Praxair Regional Heart and Vascular Center offers a comprehensive range of cardiovascular services, including life-saving emergency angioplasty to treat heart attacks.

“We are committed to offering patients the highest level of cardiac care with an interdisciplinary team of cardiac experts recognized nationally for clinical excellence and patient safety,” said John Murphy, MD, Executive Vice President of Danbury Health Systems.

Dr. Murphy noted that Danbury Hospital ranks number one in Connecticut for cardiac surgery and among the top 5 percent nationally for overall cardiac care, according to HealthGrades®, a leading independent health care ranking organization. The hospital is also a nationally accredited Chest Pain Center.

Shaving minutes saves lives, preserves heart muscle

The new equipment enhances the capability of paramedics to rapidly transmit abnormal ECG findings via a dedicated, secure multi-tech modem network directly to Emergency Department physicians, who can alert the hospital’s interventional cardiology team that a heart attack victim is on the way. While transporting patients to Danbury Hospital, paramedics are trained to begin administering life-saving treatments, including the transmission of ECGs.

One of the biggest advantages of the new system is that the multi-tech modem can transmit 12-lead cardiac information in an average of 45 seconds versus 2 minutes using a cell phone. Transmitting ECG data from the field can reduce the “door to balloon time” for treating a heart attack with emergency angioplasty by 30 minutes, said Cassavechia. “Door to balloon time” refers to the interval between the patient’s arrival in the Emergency Department until the interventional cardiologists inflate the balloon to unblock the clogged artery during angioplasty.

Danbury Hospital has been recognized by the Connecticut Quality Improvement Award (CQIA) Partnership for reducing the 90 minute “door to balloon” period for treating heart attacks, during which optimal care can preserve heart muscle.

Chain of survival has many links

EMS personnel are just “one link” in an emergency response system designed to save lives—but only if people recognize the signs of a heart attack and immediately call 9-1-1, said Cassavechia. These EMS personnel include first responders (police, fire fighters), emergency medical technicians, and paramedics.

“We are always astonished by the large amount of patients who arrive at the Emergency Department in a private vehicle,” he said. “Fifty-two percent of people who have experienced a cardiac event arrive at the hospital two to four or more hours after the onset of symptoms.”

The “chain of survival” includes many individuals: people who call 9-1-1 at the first sign of an emergency, dispatchers who send the appropriate emergency response team, EMS personnel who treat and transmit the cardiac event to the Emergency Department, and the hospital’s interventional cardiology team of physicians and nurses ready to spring into action when the patient arrives.

“Every piece of the puzzle,” said Cassavechia, “must come together for optimal patient outcomes.”

About Danbury Hospital

Danbury Hospital is a 371-bed regional medical center and university teaching hospital associated with New York Medical College, the Yale University School of Medicine, the Connecticut School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. The hospital provides centers of excellence in cardiovascular services, cancer, weight loss surgery, orthopedics, digestive disorders and radiology. It also offers specialized programs for sleep disorders and asthma management. Medical staff members are board certified in their specialties.

Danbury Hospital is ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country for overall clinical performance by HealthGrades®, a leading independent health care rating organization. It is the only health care facility in Connecticut ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide for overall clinical performance four years in a row.

In the area of cardiac care, Danbury Hospital is ranked number one in Connecticut for cardiac surgery and in the top 5 percent nationally for overall cardiac care by HealthGrades®. This is the second consecutive year for the national award.