Paramedics equipped with a defibrillator provide a valuable service to heart-attack victims, but other paramedic treatments intended to help these patients may not be time well spent.

These are the findings of a recent study directed by Dr. Nathan C. Dean of the Salt Lake Clinic.Findings reported in the current "Annals of Emergency Medicine" support the benefit of transport of patients with acute myocardial infarction by paramedics equipped with a defibrillator. And Dean believes paramedics should transport heart-attack victims and be called in such emergencies.

However, the study also concludes that aside from defibrillation and administering oxygen, it's unclear which drugs or procedures provide enough pre-hospital benefit to justify the time required to perform them.

According to Dean, the message from the study is extensive pre-hospital care by mobile paramedic units delays arrival at the hospital where new heart-attack treatments can be administered. These treatments include TPA or streptokinase - drugs that dissolve blood clots and reduce heart muscle damage.

Further study may indicate whether these drugs can be given safely in a pre-hospital setting by paramedics, Dean said.

"This information will help us all work toward a decreased delay in hospital arrival," the physician said.

The study was supported by a grant from the LDS Hospital-Deseret Foundation.