Patients who suffer a heart attack on weekends and off hours are more likely to die than those stricken during working hours, according to a study in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal).
Researchers conducted a metaanalysis of nearly 50 studies done from 2001 to 2013 and including about 2 million patients. Portions of the patient cohort stretch back to 1987.
The authors discuss ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) and door-to-balloon time—that is, the time between presentation and receiving percutaneous coronary intervention. The door-to-balloon time should be 90 minutes or less.
The study notes that “higher mortality during off-hours was seen for both in-hospital and 30-day mortality.”
The research was done in the United States, Canada, and Europe. One in 20 in-hospital deaths, or 1 in 29 deaths within 30 days after admission, could be prevented if the higher mortality during off-hours was resolved, the authors contend.
They add that “the 15-minute increase in door-to-balloon time observed during off-hours could increase mortality by as much as 10%–25%, assuming linearity between door-to-balloon time and mortality.”
The difference in outcomes “is likely associated with availability of cardiologists, support staff for the cardiac catheterization laboratory, or both,” the study says.
In addition, 24-hour-a-day cardiology service isn’t available everywhere. Many hospitals have to assemble on-call staff to get cardiac units up and running during off hours.