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ESC: Recognising myocardial infarction signs and symptoms improves survival

Recognising the signs and symptoms of a myocardial infarction is linked with faster life-saving treatment and reduced in-hospital mortality, according to a recent study presented at the 2023 European Society of Cardiology (ESC) congress in Amsterdam.

Researchers in the Republic of Korea have found a correlation between symptom recognition, time to treatment and mortality in those experiencing a myocardial infarction.

Although AI-based tools are becoming potentially valuable as an aid to quickly diagnose a myocardial infarction, if patients are capable of recognising the most common symptoms, this too could ensure they receive prompt treatment.

The current study, ‘Effect of symptoms recognition in patients with recurrent acute myocardial infarction: from KRAMI-RCC stratification in acute coronary syndromes’, used data from KRAMI-RCC – a registry of myocardial infarction patients in the Republic of Korea.

Trained nurses consulted with survivors of myocardial infarction, asking them if they recognised six sets of symptoms: chest pain; shortness of breath; cold sweat; radiating pain to the jaw, shoulder or arm; dizziness, vertigo, lightheadedness, loss of consciousness; and stomach ache.

Patients were then classified as ‘recognised symptoms‘ if they could identify at least one symptom, otherwise they were classified as ‘did not recognise symptoms‘.

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Recognising myocardial infarction and survival outcomes

The study included 11,894 myocardial infarction patients, of whom 90.4% had a first-time event and 9.6% a repeat event. Overall, just over half (52.3%) of patients recognised the symptoms. 

The majority of patients (92.9%) could identify chest pain as a symptom. However, only a third (32.1%) identified shortness of breath and cold sweats (31.4%) and just 1.3% recognised stomach ache.

Among 57.4% of patients who correctly identified the symptoms, treatment was received within two hours, compared to 47.2% of those who did not recognise the symptoms.

Moreover, the in-hospital mortality rate was much lower for those able to recognise symptoms (1.5% vs 6.7%).

For patients with recurrent myocardial infarction, the recognition rate was 57.5% for those previously enrolled in KRAMI-RCC and just 14.4% of patients with a first-time myocardial infarction could identify the symptoms.

Study author Dr Kyehwan Kim of Gyeongsang National University Hospital in Jinju, Republic of Korea, said: ‘The findings indicate that education is needed for the general public and heart attack survivors on the symptoms that should trigger calling an ambulance.

‘In our study, patients who knew the symptoms of a heart attack were more likely to receive treatment quickly and subsequently survive. Women, older patients, those with a low level of education and people living alone may particularly benefit from learning the symptoms to look out for.‘