What is a STEMI?

The #CodeSTEMI  Documentary Series was created to travel the world and and answer the nagging question about what can we do to improve healthcare as we examine model STEMI systems of care that have demonstrated success in improving patient outcomes. The series will span the STEMI system of care continuum, cardiac arrest and all time sensitive diagnosis – focusing on the medical directors, doctors, coordinators, fire/EMS providers, and patients – to share their stories and engage viewers with thought-provoking, multi-platform content aimed at educating and entertaining viewers.

Some of you might be asking yourself, “What’s a STEMI?”

An ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) is a very serious type of heart attack during which one of the heart’s major arteries (one of the arteries that supplies oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the heart muscle itself) is blocked.

 (ST-elevation is an abnormal finding on the electrocardiogram of a heart attack patient.)

It is a profoundly life-threatening medical emergency and usually associated with a disease process called atherosclerosis, or coronary artery disease.

Our CodeSTEMI Documentary Series explores systems around the world who are advancing the science and survival percentage of STEMI & NSTEMI patients. Our recent trip to London with London Ambulance Service sharte their story from the ground up and what are they doing different that the rest of the world!
To watch the full episode visit here!

Signs and symptoms of a STEMI include:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diaphoresis (sweatiness) unexplained by ambient temperature
  • Palpitations (uncomfortable awareness of the heart beat)
  • Anxiety or a feeling of impending doom

Many patients experience denial which means they delay seeking medical care for their STEMI, sometimes for hours.

Patients experiencing a STEMI are at risk for developing sudden cardiac arrest (sometimes referred to as a “massive heart attack”).

STEMI can be treated with either “clot-busting” drugs called thrombolytics (or fibrinolytics) or with a primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in a cardiac catheterization lab. This is also referred to as angioplasty or stenting.

Some patients may require coronary artery bypass graft (CABG — pronounced “cabbage”) also generically referred to as “open heart surgery”.

During an acute STEMI seconds count! There is a direct relationship between the amount of time a heart artery is blocked and the severity of the heart attack and odds of survival.

Cardiologists have a mantra that “time is muscle” to express the importance of early treatment.

“Code STEMI” is a phrase used in many EMS systems and emergency departments that essentially means “we have identified a patient experiencing an ST-elevation myocardial infarction and we are formally requesting that a life-saving team and equipment be assembled immediately.”

Sometimes this means calling in the cardiologist and cath lab personnel from home on nights, weekends or holidays while the STEMI patient is still in the field with EMTs and paramedics.

Other times it means bypassing the closest hospital for the most appropriate hospital (one capable of prompt, expertly performed primary PCI).

These are some of the ways we “save time” with STEMI patients and when we save time we save lives.

This is the Code STEMI web series.