ServicesLocations & DirectionsPatients & VisitorsHealth ResourcesCareersContact UsFind a Doctor
News Feed: To see weather delays and cancellations go to
About Us > News > PinnacleHealth News Releases > When Minutes Count—Emergency Heart Care is Vital

When Minutes Count—Emergency Heart Care is Vital

PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute at the West Shore Hospital

Minutes count when faced with a heart-related emergency. Access to emergency care close to home is essential. 
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend that patients experiencing a heart attack have their coronary arteries opened within 90 minutes of arrival at the hospital – a period of time commonly referred to as “door-to-balloon.” 
“When the new West Shore Hospital opens in May, it will house three heart catheterization labs and state of the art operating rooms, putting PinnacleHealth’s nationally recognized heart team closer to residents on the West shore,” states Todd A. Bokelman, MD, FACC, cardiologist, PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute. “Research has shown that the sooner the artery is opened, the better the patient's chance of living through his or her heart attack.”
PinnacleHealth’s Code STEMI process helps patients experiencing heart attacks to receive treatment in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab as quickly as possible. Code STEMI involves the PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute, Emergency Department, and nursing staff. When a patient arrives in the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack, he or she immediately receives an electrocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis of a heart attack, also known as an ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI). 
The goal is to reduce the amount of time it takes to get patients from the door of the Emergency Department to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab. On average, PinnacleHealth patients have a “door-to-balloon” time of approximately 63 minutes, significantly lower than the 90-minute timeframe specified by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association.
PinnacleHealth’s Code STEMI protocol allows a patient’s treatment to begin in the ambulance. Trained paramedics are in constant communication with the emergency department, so that the cardiac catheterization lab is ready if needed when a patient arrives, allowing for quicker treatment.
Each catheterization lab in the new West Shore Hospital will be equipped with high-resolution video screens and X-ray machines that provide enlarged pictures of the blocked areas in patients’ coronary arteries, making data more accurate and accessible.
Cardiac cath labs are staffed with expert cardiologists specialized cardiology-based RNs, LPNs, radiology X-ray technicians and cardiovascular technologists, all committed to providing patients with the highest quality care. 
“PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute surgeons perform more heart procedures than any other hospital in the region and it is in the top five acute care hospitals in Pennsylvania. While maintaining this high volume, important quality indicators such as mortality and readmission rates remain low,” states Michael A. Young, president & CEO for PinnacleHealth. “In addition, these procedures are performed at a lower cost than others in the state, proving that integrated care provided by experienced physicians and care givers makes a difference for our patients.” 
PinnacleHealth also achieved the coveted Society of Thoracic Surgery (STS) highest 3-star overall for four consecutive rating periods in part because of survival rates that consistently exceed STS benchmarks. PHCVI is involved in more than 50 clinical trials for cardiac care and nearly 20 for vascular disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and the risk for heart disease increases with age. As the aging population increases, so will the need for cardiovascular services. Vision 2017 has strategically positioned PinnacleHealth to meet the growing needs of those it serves from preventive and diagnostic care to treatment.

Surviving a Heart Attack

If you suspect that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, immediately call 9-1-1. Whatever you do, do not attempt to drive yourself, or have someone drive you, to an emergency department. Tell the dispatcher where you are and what's happening. Do not hang up the phone until you're told to do so. 

By calling 9-1-1 and waiting for an ambulance to arrive, you will receive vital care from trained paramedics on the way to the hospital. What's more, your emergency department will have time to monitor your vital signs remotely and prepare for your arrival. Calling 9-1-1 is the critical first step in getting help for chest pain.
Call 911 immediately if you experience the following heart attack symptoms for two minutes or more:
  • Sudden shortness of breath.
  • Sudden sweating or flu-like symptoms, including nausea, clamminess or cold sweats.
  • Unusual fatigue, light-headedness, weakness or dizziness.
  • Pain that radiates. Men and women often experience this pain differently, as explained below.
  • Intermittent pain that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. This sensation can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness.
  • Anxiety or a feeling of doom.
  • For those with angina: Any change in the frequency, duration or intensity of symptoms, which do not respond to nitroglycerin.
For men, pain will spread to the left shoulder, down the left arm, or up to the chin.
For women, this pain can be much more subtle. It may travel to the left or right arm, up to the chin, shoulder blades and upper back — or to abdomen (as nausea and/or indigestion and anxiety). Women are also more likely to experience these accompanying symptoms: shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.
About PinnacleHealth System
PinnacleHealth is a pioneer not-for-profit healthcare system dedicated to improving the health and quality of life for the people of Central Pennsylvania since 1873. A proven leader in medical innovation, PinnacleHealth offers a wide range of services from primary care to the most complex surgeries and Magnet recognition for nursing excellence. The healthcare network includes four campuses (Community, West Shore, Harrisburg and Polyclinic). The West Shore Hospital will open in Hampden Township in 2014. The five-story hospital will include 108 beds with an emergency department, medical/surgical care, cardiology, orthopedics, chronic disease management, and private patient rooms. PinnacleHealth is part of RiverHealth ACO, an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). Medical services, including family practice, imaging, outpatient surgery and oncology are offered at multiple locations throughout the region. For a complete list of services, visit our website at