Researchers are now testing a cutting-edge therapy that could limit permanent damage to heart muscles where patients get supersaturated oxygen therapy in addition to angioplasty or stents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more than half a million Americans have their first heart attack every year. Tim France, 59, who exercises, eats well and doesn't smoke, was recently one of those.
France said he was playing golf when he suffered his heart attack.
“As I was walking from the fifth to the sixth hole, you have to walk up a hill, and that’s when I felt a pain in my chest. Right in the middle of my chest, and it's like, well, this is not good,” France recalled.
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France was rushed to Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, California where doctors invited him to be part of the supersaturated oxygen therapy trial.
Cardiologist Dr. David Engelman at Medical City Las Colinas has researched the trial.
"In this trial, what they're doing is they're first opening the blood vessel but then also administrating a patient's own blood back to them, directly to the artery where the injury is, but that blood has been treated to increase the amount of oxygen," said Engelman.
In early phases of the trial, heart muscle damage went down by 26 percent.
"Our goal is to open the artery as quickly as possible and restore blood normal flow. The longer it's closed the more damage to the heart there is," said Engelman.
France had MRIs at five and 30 days after the procedure.
“I feel as well now as I did before the heart attack, and I’m thinking that part of it has to do with that study,” said France.
He’s also psyched to help researchers improve outcomes for first-time heart attack patients like himself.
Research into supersaturated oxygen therapy began in 2002. It’s now in Phase III clinical trial, the last phase before results and data are presented to the FDA. Doctors have treated 86 of the 100 patients they need for the trial. They expect to end the trial in two to three months.