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Emergency Services

Penn Heart Rescue®

Patients experiencing a heart attack where the arteries are completely blocked, a condition called ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), need fast, aggressive treatment. The interval between diagnosis and care ("door-to-balloon" time, or D2B) can mean the difference between life and death.

Penn Heart Rescue® is a rapid referral program at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center with emergency protocols to ensure patients experiencing STEMI receive the best care possible in their critical condition. All patients who arrive at Penn Presbyterian with symptoms of a heart attack are fast–tracked to receive an emergency angioplasty procedure when time is of the essence.

In the minutes following a STEMI, hypoxic conditions in the myocardium initiate infarction and tissue necrosis. Irreversible heart muscle death begins within 20 to 40 minutes following the onset of a myocardial infarction (MI). Patients with STEMI who do not receive the appropriate treatment have a higher incidence of significant heart damage and mortality.

One phone call to Penn Heart Rescue initiates the dispatch of PennSTAR air transport or a local ambulance to pick up the patient. Along the way, essential tests are performed and the patient is prepared for emergency angioplasty. Upon arrival, the diagnosis is quickly confirmed and followed by treatment that can include cardiac catheterization and stent placement.

Not all hospitals offer emergency angioplasty or, if they do, they may not have an interventional team on-site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Penn Presbyterian Medical Center has implemented protocols to meet this need.


The Penn Heart Rescue program currently includes six regional hospitals: