People suffering from a racing heart can be treated more cheaply and quickly by avoiding A&E, a pioneering study has found.
Researchers at the Barts Heart Centre and London Ambulance Service found paramedics were able to complete their treatment 90 minutes quicker than if the patient had been taken to hospital.
The study analysed 86 patients with supraventricular tachycardias (SVT), or an abnormally fast heart rate – one of the most common conditions treated in UK hospitals.
Of these, 44 were given injections of adenosine, which slows the heart rate, by specially-trained paramedics. The remainder were taken to A&E for conventional treatment of the same medication.
The results showed that 81 per cent of those seen by paramedics were successfully treated and were discharged more than an hour and a half quicker than those taken directly to A&E.
Most were treated in their own homes, avoiding a stressful and lengthy trip to A&E – making the paramedic-led care 66 per cent cheaper.
Richard Schilling, professor of cardiology and electrophysiology at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “In a time where emergency departments are facing considerable challenges, these findings may show a glimpse of a future path.
“The majority of patients preferred being treated by paramedics and we found that this way of managing this condition did not impact the patients’ long term care.”
LAS consultant paramedic Mark Whitbread, co-author of the report, said: “This is great news for this group of patients who suffer often quite horrible symptoms including heart palpitations, chest pains and shortness of breath.
“Our paramedics, who are leading the way in pre-hospital care, were able to treat these patients and leave them in the comfort of their own homes and save unnecessary trips to emergency departments.”
Glenis Holtom, 67, a patient who took part in the study, was at water aerobics when she began suffering pain in her left arm. She had to stop and her lips turned blue.
She called her GP on returning home and was advised to dial 999. “When the paramedics arrived, they monitored my heartbeat and they knew straight away that I had SVT and offered to treat me at home,” she said.
“The whole experience was absolutely brilliant. The whole thing took no longer than 30 minutes, and I was so grateful for their care. While I wouldn’t wish my condition on anyone, I would recommend this treatment.”