Thanks to better technology and teamwork among first responders and hospitals, Lincoln is one of the better places in the nation to have a heart attack, city officials said Thursday.

Patients who have a heart attack in Lincoln are usually in the cardiac unit twice as fast as the national average.

The "door to balloon" time, which is the time it takes from entering the hospital to when the catheter is inflated in a clogged artery, is drastically quicker in Lincoln than the national average -- 43.9 minutes compared to 90 minutes.

First responders have had the technology since 2010 to remotely send vital information straight to the cath lab, allowing patients to often bypass emergency room tests.

Mayor Chris Beutler praised Lincoln Fire and Rescue, Bryan Health and St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center for their efforts to increase survivability for those experiencing heart attacks.

Fire Chief John Huff said response time is important because the faster the response, the less heart damage the patient will experience.

The decreased time is thanks to EKG technology used by first responders when they arrive.

They attach 12 leads (connections to the patient) to determine if the patient is experiencing a blocked artery in the heart. The information is sent wirelessly to the emergency room, where doctors can review the results and share them with a cardiologist by cellphone.

When the patient arrives at the hospital, he or she often does not need to stop in the emergency room, but can go directly to the catheterization lab for a balloon angioplasty to open the blocked artery, said Dr. Jason Kruger, Medical Director for the Emergency Medical Services Oversight Authority.

“The bottom line is that if you have a heart attack in Lincoln, the likelihood of your surviving it greatly exceeds the national norm,” Beutler said. “This is due to the outstanding teamwork and professionalism of Lincoln Fire and Rescue and the cardiac care units at Bryan Health and St. Elizabeth.

"They are taking technology that used to be reserved for (just) hospitals, right to the patient’s doorstep."

Lincoln Fire and Rescue has been obtaining 12-lead EKGs for use in the field since 2005.

In 2012, first responders transmitted 1,002 EKGs. So far this year, about 567 have been transmitted.

First responders get to life-threatening incidents in less than eight minutes more than 90 percent of the time.

It takes on average about 68 minutes from when first responders arrive until the catheter is inserted. Lincoln’s averages are based on incidents from April 2010 to the present.

Reach Jordan Pascale at 402-473-7120, jpascale@journalstar.com or follow him on Twitter: @LJSPascale.