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September 2008 Issue

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Device May Improve Lab Testing, Cut Waiting Times for Results

By Angela Koenig
Published September 2008

New devices that bring the laboratory to the emergency department could be used to speed the care of cardiac patients and improve their outcomes, say UC researchers.

Results of this research—led by UC’s Richard Ryan, MD, and conducted at four emergency departments across the country— are published in the Aug. 4, 2008, online edition of the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

When patients visit the emergency room with chest pain, physicians typically conduct an ECG (electrocardiogram) and then test the blood for markers that could indicate heart trouble.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says the results of this blood test should be available to the doctor in less than 60 minutes.

The problem is that hospital laboratories often struggle to get results to the doctor in less than an hour. UC emergency medicine researchers at Jewish Hospital tested the effectiveness of doing this initial blood test using a hand-held, point-of-care device.

Called i-STAT, and developed by Abbott Point of Care, this device can be used right in the emergency department. The study showed that when using the i-STAT, blood test results were available in under 30 minutes over 80 percent of the time, and under the one-hour limit 98 percent of the time.

The hospital laboratory, on the other hand, only met the one hour target about half of the time.

Despite its speed, i-STAT and other similar devices are only as efficient as those using the device and acting on its results.

“The emergency department is a staircase, with point-of-care testing being one big step,” says Ryan, vice chair of emergency medicine.

“There are ways to get things done and get them done faster.” But, he adds, “Real efficiencies depend on the many other steps as well.”

Christopher Lindsell, PhD, a research assistant professor in UC’s emergency medicine department, says that emergency medicine physicians dealing with acute coronary syndromes commonly say “time is muscle.”

“This is not about the brand of device, this is about the physician being able to get the result of the tests faster, and make decisions about how to treat the patient faster,” Lindsell adds. The study was sponsored by Abbott Point of Care.

Authors report no financial interests with the study sponsor.

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