Heart attacks remain a leading cause of death in the U.S. Despite being common, a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) shows that emergency rooms are less prepared to deal with hearts attacks when they occur on weekends, evenings and holidays. Should a patient’s life depend on whether they are lucky enough to have their heart attack during normal business hours?
Medical malpractice lawyers have long known that many avoidable medical errors occur on evenings, weekends and holidays when staffing is low, when caregivers are fatigued or distracted, and when inexperienced resident physicians are running the show. The BMJ study, titled Off-Hour Presentation and Outcomes in Patients with Acute Myocardial Infarction: Systemic Review and Meta-Analysis, adds statistical verification to this experience. (“Acute myocardial infarction” or “MI” is a medical term for a heart attack.)
The researchers reached the following conclusion: “This systematic review suggests that patients with acute myocardial infarction presenting during off-hours have higher mortality, and patients with STEMI have longer door to balloon times.” (STEMI is an acronym meaning “ST segment elevation myocardial infarction,” which is a common type of heart attack caused by blockage of coronary arteries.) This research supports early studies confirming that the quality of care decreases on evenings, weekends and holidays. Worse yet, this recent study found that “