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Press Release

New Life Saving Heart Attack System to be Implemented

August 12, 2008

A new heart attack response system being implemented in Contra Costa could save or improve the lives of hundreds of people a year.

Contra Costa Health Services' Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will oversee the September 8 launch of the STEMI (ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction) System. The nationally recognized STEMI System is designed to allow paramedics to rapidly identify and transport high-risk heart attack victims to specially equipped hospitals. STEMI, a high-risk heart attack, can be reversed by specialized cardiac procedures that are best given within 90 to 120 minutes of the heart attack victim's first sign of chest pain. EMS staff presented the STEMI System to the Board of Supervisors today.

"During a heart attack, a clot blocks the flow of blood to the heart and heart muscle begins to die. The sooner treatment is started the better the chance of preventing or limiting damage to the heart. This new System will set a new standard for cardiac care in our county," said Dr. Joe Barger, EMS Medical Director.

Barger said the STEMI System begins when fire and ambulance service paramedics, who respond to about 7,000 chest pain calls a year, use a 12 lead EKG to identify STEMI heart attacks on scene. A STEMI Receiving Centers is notified to activate its cardiac team and provide specialized treatment.

"We have five hospitals that have applied and met criteria and will serve as our STEMI Receiving Centers. These centers will provide 24-hour specialized cardiac catheterization services," said Barger.

"The five STEMI Receiving Centers are Doctors Medical Center San Pablo, John Muir Medical Center - Concord Campus, John Muir Medical Center - Walnut Creek Campus, Kaiser Permanente Medical Center - Walnut Creek and San Ramon Regional Medical Center.

He added that EMS cannot do it alone, "We at EMS are training and equipping our paramedics to recognize STEMI heart attacks and to notify STEMI Receiving Centers quickly, but it's critical that anyone with heart attack symptoms call 911 immediately. It could make the difference between life and death."

He said heart attack symptoms include discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

More information about the STEMI System and the STEMI Resource Centers is available online at

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Press Contact
  • Joe Barger, EMS Medical Director
  • 925-646-4690