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MURRAY — Getting the proper medical attention quickly after having a heart attack is crucial to survival. Without blood flow, the heart muscle can die very quickly. A local Utah doctor is putting the solution in the hands of anyone with a smartphone.
Morey Day is a proud father of twin missionaries, Nate and Eli Day. He looks forward to hearing from them every week.
“It is really cool to get an email from them,” he said.
A few years ago, however, Day almost didn't live to see them off. In August 2013, Day was on a Boy Scout adventure in the mountains. “Then about lunchtime, it hit me like a ton of bricks,” he said.
Day was having a heart attack. “It feels like somebody put 200 to 300 pounds on your chest and you just can't breathe," he explained. Day took an ambulance to a hospital in Evanston, Wyoming, and was later flown to Salt Lake City.
He explained that doctors were, “pounding away on my chest for about two minutes before they got me back.” By that time, several hours had elapsed.
Day said he is lucky he survived, but he sustained a lot of damage to his heart since it took so long to receive the attention he needed.
Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Brent Muhlestein, a cardiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, saw Day when he arrived. He said, "Eighty percent or 90 percent of the heart muscle that was at risk was already dead.”
After seeing patients like Day, Muhlestein saw an opportunity to intervene before the heart began to die. He helped design and test a smartphone app to detect a heart attack in a matter of minutes
Instead of relying on a traditional 12-lead electrocardiogram at a hospital, Muhlestein said the app takes an ECG on the spot with only two wires and sends the results to a cardiologist immediately through the cloud.
“Time is of the essence,” he explained. “The sooner you can get the artery open, the better the patient is going to do. We found this app may dramatically speed things up and save your life.”
Muhlestein led a team of researchers in an international study, where 204 patients with chest pain received both a standard 12- lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and an ECG through a smartphone app by AliveCor. They found the app was just as effective in distinguishing an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), or heart attack, as the traditional 12-lead EKG.
"We demonstrated that you can do it using a simple smartphone technology that's available anywhere," said Muhlestein.
Day said he wishes he had this app several years ago. He thinks he would be in better health today. “I think there’d have been a lot less damage to the heart,” Day explained.
He said it could have been life-changing for him to have an immediate diagnosis, "and know right away how serious that is. It can be a real lifesaver,” he said.
Day said Muhlestein encourages him to stay active and eat healthy. He walks his dog and pays attention to his diet so he is healthy when his boys return home.
Muhlestein hopes the app will be readily available at a low cost for anyone to carry like a first-aid kit including third world countries where EKG machines are hard to come across. He hopes the price of the app, when made available, will help anyone with a smartphone be prepared to save lives.
Editor's Note Correction: The name of the doctor from Intermountain Medical Center is Dr. Brent Muhlestein, not Muhlstein.