The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Night call for state of the heart
- Round-the-clock emergency cardiac-care squad at Bypass hospital

Sixty-three-year-old Tapash Roy suffered an acute myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack, at two in the morning. The retired banker’s family, in south Calcutta, rushed him to the nearest cardiac care centre, but doctors there couldn’t give him the life-saving shot, since Roy had bleeding ulcers. By the time day dawned, Roy’s condition had deteriorated beyond salvage.

Recent-entrant Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals has zeroed in on the treatment-time lag in fighting heart attacks at night in Calcutta. A group of doctors and support personnel at the EM Bypass hospital have formed an emergency core contingent to treat the midnight killer. Led by interventional cardiologists Sunil Lhila and Aftab Khan, the team is using primary angioplasty to open up the choked arteries, instead of the conventional treatment of administering life-saving medicine to dissolve the clot.

In such an emergency, time management is the key, stresses the primary ’plasty core team at Apollo Gleneagles. “We have achieved a door-to-balloon time (period from the moment the patient enters through the hospital door to the instant when the blocked artery is opened up by the balloon) of 30-40 minutes, giving ourselves the maximum chance to succeed,” says Lhila.

The moment a heart attack case is reported over the phone, the crisis crew — from the ambulance staff to cath lab technicians, anaesthetist to ward staff, besides the cardiologists themselves — swings into action. The “only round-the-clock emergency squad in town offering the cath-lab procedure”, has successfully opened up completely occluded arteries in 17 cases already. Most patients have resumed work on the fourth day after the attack.

“Besides keeping vigil by night, we are trying to raise awareness on the procedure by day, since education of doctors and the people is vital to save more lives. Early recognition of the condition is important for maximum benefit,” feels Khan.

The door-to-balloon rulebook drawn up by the team reads something like this:

- Report to the hospital emergency without wasting any time

- Don’t give the patient too much sublingual nitrates, like Sorbitrate

- Watch for perspiration, plus upper-abdominal discomfort

- A dedicated helpline for heart-attack patients will be launched soon. Till then, the nightwatchmen are Sunil Lhila: 98312 57841, Aftab Khan: 98312 57844, P.K. Tiwary: 98312 57850.

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