STUDY OBJECTIVE: To measure the pre-hospital delay times in patients with proven acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and to identify possibilities for reduction of treatment delay. DESIGN: Descriptive three centre study. SETTING: One university teaching hospital and two regional hospitals in Groningen, the Netherlands. PATIENTS: 400 consecutive confirmed AMI patients, age below 75 years, admitted to coronary care departments. MAIN RESULTS: Mean age was 59 years and 78% of patients were men. Within two hours after onset of symptoms half of the patients with AMI arrived at the hospital. Patient, doctor, and ambulance delay times (median values) were 30, 38, and 35 minutes respectively. Calling the personal general practitioner (GP) or the locum tenens and whether or not the AMI occurred during a weekend or on a working day had no consequences for pre-hospital delay times. At night patients waited longer before calling a GP than in the daytime. There was a positive correlation between patient and doctor delay. Twenty two per cent of AMI patients waited two hours or more before calling a GP. Total pre-hospital delay times differed between men and women. Longer doctor delay in women (36 minutes for men and 52 minutes for women) was caused by displacement of specific symptoms, in particular in women. AMI patients who were alone during onset of symptoms showed higher patients delay (72 compared with 23 minutes). CONCLUSION: In hospital admitted patients younger than 75 years pre-hospital delay times are within acceptable limits. In some subgroups further reduction is attainable, for example in patient delay outside office hours and when patients are alone during onset of symptoms, in doctor delay in cases where women present with symptoms suggestive for AMI. Improvement of facilities for pre-hospital electrocardiographic diagnosis may facilitate decision making by GPs. Good opportunities for further reduction of treatment delay exist in shortening of hospital delay.
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