Study: EMS administered glucose-insulin-potassium solution cuts cardiac arrests

Research found that the mixture reduces by half the number of heart attack victims who have cardiac arrest

The Albuquerque Journal 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Heart attack patients are half as likely to suffer cardiac arrest or death if paramedics give them an intravenous solution of glucose, insulin and potassium during transport to the hospital, according to a large study performed in New Mexico and elsewhere. Dr. Michael Richards, the chairman of University of New Mexico Hospital's department of emergency medicine, co-wrote the three-year study, and Albuquerque Ambulance Service participated.

The study, published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was based on the outcomes of 871 patients recruited by paramedics with 36 emergency medical systems in the U.S. from 2008 to 2011, including 187 patients in Bernalillo and Sandoval counties.

Heart disease is the nation's leading cause of death, resulting in one in four U.S. deaths. Each year, about 785,000 Americans have a first heart attack and 470,000 have a second or subsequent heart attack.

Heart attacks are caused by a blocked artery that deprives the heart of blood and oxygen. Insulin helps the heart absorb the glucose, and potassium is an electrolyte crucial to muscle function.

The glucose-insulin solution minimizes muscle damage by providing the heart with a usable source of energy until physicians can treat the cause of the heart attack, Richards says. The idea is to buy time and lessen permanent damage to the heart muscle.

In times of escalating health care costs, the solution's estimated cost of about $50 per patient makes it a health care bargain. The solution does not need FDA approval, but Richards says medical professionals likely will want a larger study before recommending it for standard use.

While the treatment was not able to entirely prevent permanent heart damage, it shows great promise of minimizing damage and decreasing the risk of death.

And that would be an excellent value for the thousands of people at risk of having a heart attack.

Copyright 2012 Albuquerque Journal

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