Heart Attack Experts: Delivering Care When Every Minute Matters

Having a heart attack? Where you go matters! Not all hospitals are equipped to take care of complex heart cases.

Take this number: 90 minutes. That’s the national guideline* for time to get treatment started on STEMI heart attacks - the most serious kind where your arteries are completely blocked. At CHI Health, we’ve cut that time to an average of 57 minutes – and in some cases as quickly as 13 minutes.

“The reason these numbers matter is because time is heart muscle,” said Erich Fruehling, MD, CHI Health interventional cardiologist. “We’re working against the clock to limit damage to your heart and increase your chances of living longer.” When you are suffering a heart attack, the time it takes from your arrival to getting your blood flowing again – that 57 minute average – is called “door-to-balloon” time.

Throughout CHI Health, 14 interventional cardiologists performed more than 2,000 angioplasties for blocked arteries last year.

“During angioplasty, we use a catheter to insert a deflated balloon into the blocked artery. The balloon is then inflated restoring circulation,” said Dr. Fruehling.

So, what happens if you live 150 miles from the closest “door?” Outside the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, only five Nebraska communities are designated to provide this level of care at what’s called “primary percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) facilities.” CHI Health has hospitals with PCI facilities in three: Lincoln, Kearney, Grand Island, and a heart team in the fourth – North Platte. CHI Health actively works with local paramedics/EMS to get you to the right place at the right time for the right care.

So if you have a heart attack in a small town or rural Nebraska, rather than driving to the nearest ER only to then be transferred to a larger hospital, local paramedics/EMS are connected in real time with the CHI Health heart team – so they know exactly where you should go.

“From wherever you are, results will be communicated in real time back to our heart team. They’ll quickly diagnose, make a course of action and begin prepping. Saving precious time,” said Anub John, MBBS, CHI Health interventional cardiologist. “We can further reduce time and heart muscle damage by sending our AirCare helicopter to bring some patients in.” You can bypass the hospital “door” and be wheeled straight to a specially designed “cath lab” where life-saving care continues.

CHI Health’s vast network of providers and hospitals ensures quick, quality, life-saving care for our entire state. “Where and when our patients need it – we have them covered,” said Dr. Fruehling. “And with options like AirCare and door-to-balloon times 33 minutes faster than the national goal, we’re committed to also providing the best outcomes.”

*American Heart Association guideline.

Chart of Heart Care by the Numbers

Erich Fruehling, MD


Anub John, MBBS

Interventional Cardiology,