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Time to treatment with thrombolytic therapy: determinants and effect on short-term nonfatal outcomes of acute myocardial infarction


Objectives — To characterize the extent of delay in administration of thrombolytic therapy to patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in Canada, to examine patient-specific predictors of such delay and to measure the effect of delay on short-term nonfatal cardiac outcomes.

Design — Secondary cohort analysis of data from the first international Global Utilization of Streptokinase and tPA for Occluded Coronary Arteries (GUSTO-I) trial.

Setting — Sixty-three acute care hospitals across Canada.

Subjects — All 2898 Canadian patients with an AMI enrolled in GUSTO-I.

Main Outcomes — Time before arrival at a hospital ("symptom-to-door" time) and time from arrival to administration of therapy ("door-to-needle" time) for patients who had an AMI outside of a hospital, in clinically relevant categories; proportions of patients with nonfatal, serious cardiac events, including shock, sustained ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation and asystole.

Results — Of the total number of patients enrolled, records were complete for 2708; 2542 of these patients (93.9%) had an AMI outside of a hospital. These 2542 patients presented a median 81 (interquartile range 50 to 130) minutes after the onset of symptoms, and the median time to treatment in hospital was 85 (interquartile range 61 to 115) minutes. Whereas a greater proportion of Canadian patients than of patients enrolled in GUSTO-I in other countries reached hospital within 2 hours of symptom onset (71.5% v. 61.2%, p < 0.001), a greater proportion of Canadian patients experienced in-hospital treatment delays of more than 1 hour (75.3% v. 57.1%, p < 0.001). In an analysis of all 2708 patients with complete records, both the unadjusted and adjusted odds of nonfatal cardiac events for those treated 4 to 6 hours after symptom onset were significantly higher than for those treated within 2 hours (odds ratio 1.60, 95% confidence interval 1.09 to 2.37).

Conclusion — After arrival at a hospital, Canadian patients enrolled in GUSTO-I received thrombolytic therapy more slowly than trial enrollees in other countries. Such delays are already known to decrease the rate of short-term survival after AMI. The findings further show that long time to treatment also increases the odds of nonfatal, serious cardiac events. Hospitals and physicians caring for patients with AMI should routinely assess whether and how they can improve door-to-needle times.



Cox JL, Lee E, Langer A, Armstrong PW, Naylor CD. CMAJ. 1997; 156(4):497-505.

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