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Published on August 22, 2018

chain of care

A strong 'chain of care' for a heart emergency

Whether a person is having a heart attack (circulation problem) or a sudden cardiac arrest (electrical problem), quick action by a linked chain of care can significantly improve their chances of survival.

For the chain to work, everyone must do their part. If you witness a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest, you can help save a life by taking action in the first three links of the chain:

1. RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS

Heart attack

  • Chest pain, pressure or tightness lasting more than a few minutes
  • Pain spreading to the back, neck, jaw or arms
  • Chest pain with other symptoms:
    • Trouble breathing
    • Sweating
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea/vomiting
    • Irregular pulse
    • Unusual fatigue or weakness

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness; cannot be roused
  • Falling or slumping over
  • Not breathing or is only gasping
  • No pulse

Most heart attacks don't lead to SCA, but a heart attack is a common cause. Other conditions can disrupt the heart's rhythm and lead to SCA.

2. CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY

for heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.

3. BEGIN HANDS-ONLY CPR

if there's no heartbeat (do chest compressions to the beat of disco song Stayin' Alive). Continue until Emergency Medical Services (EMS) arrives. If available, use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to establish a normal heartbeat.

4. EMS BEGIN ADVANCED LIFE SUPPORT

and transport patient to a local hospital, such as Gundersen St. Joseph's Hospital and Clinics.

5. GUNDERSEN PRIORITY ONE HEART ALERT IS ACTIVATED

while Gundersen St. Joseph's Emergency Services staff stabilize and prepare patient for transport. Gundersen works with a network of regional ERs and ambulance services to ensure patients get the emergency heart care they need quickly.

6. GUNDERSEN AIR MEDICAL HELICOPTER OR GUNDERSEN TRI-STATE AMBULANCE IS DISPATCHED

to bring the patient to Gundersen in La Crosse. Meanwhile, the Priority One call also mobilizes a specialized heart team at Gundersen—available 24/7— that is then prepared to treat the patient upon arrival.

7. THE GUNDERSEN CARDIOLOGY TEAM QUICKLY PERFORMS A HEART INTERVENTION

such as angioplasty and stenting to restore blood flow to the heart or placing an internal pacemaker/defibrillator to regulate the heart's rhythm.

8. THE PATIENT RECEIVES FOLLOW-UP CARE CLOSE TO HOME

at Gundersen St. Joseph's, including:

  • Cardiac rehab.
  • Follow-up appointments with a visiting Gundersen cardiologist or virtual appointments through Gundersen Telemedicine.
  • Regular appointments with a primary care provider for help with lifestyle changes such as a heart-healthy diet, exercise, support to quit smoking and stress management.

Thanks to quick actions in every link in the chain of care, victims of heart attacks and sudden cardiac arrest have a greater chance of survival. Gundersen's team approach and partnership with regional hospitals like Gundersen St. Joseph's work to bring the best care to you in your community.

Our Priority One Heart Attack Program partners with hospitals in these communities:

WISCONSIN

  • Black River Falls
  • Boscobel
  • Friendship
  • Hillsboro
  • Mauston
  • Prairie du Chien
  • Richland Center
  • Sparta
  • Tomah
  • Viroqua
  • Whitehall

MINNESOTA

  • Winona

IOWA

  • Cresco
  • Decorah
  • Waukon
  • West Union
Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System staff deliver great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

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