Role of the general practitioner in managing patients with myocardial infarction: impact of thrombolytic treatment. Report of a British Heart Foundation Working Group.
Thrombolytic treatment, combined with aspirin, has been shown to reduce mortality by half in patients in hospital with suspected acute myocardial infarction if it is given early after the onset of symptoms. This fact adds to the importance of prompt and skillful intervention. At present in the United Kingdom the median time for receiving suitable management for this condition is about four to six hours. With better organisation this delay could, in most areas, be reduced to two or three hours. A major change in the care of patients with myocardial infarction is needed in which the general practitioner should have a crucial role. Health authorities, hospital physicians, general practitioners, and the ambulance services must coordinate their efforts if the potential reduction in mortality is to be realised. The district medical officer should consult colleagues and draw up guidelines for organising the care of patients who have had heart attacks. The management of patients who have had heart attacks in the community and in hospital should be continually audited. There are dangers inherent in the use of thrombolytic treatment, particularly when conditions other than myocardial infarction are treated in error. This treatment should be given only when the diagnosis is highly probable and when close observation of the patient can be ensured during the ensuing hours. Thrombolytic treatment should not, therefore, be given out of hospital except when trained, equipped personnel are in attendance. Treatment can be given in any hospital (including community hospitals) provided there are adequate diagnostic facilities and suitably experienced nursing staff.