PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — If you were about to have a heart attack, is there a way to know?

Local doctors are exploring this possibility for people with known heart vessel disease. They are looking at whether an investigational implanted device could signal an alert.

“A lot of them are saying, ‘I just had a heart attack, can this happen to me?’ The answer is yes,” says Dr. David Lasorda, an interventional cardiologist at Allegheny General Hospital.

The device is smaller than your palm. It goes in the upper chest with a wire to the heart to monitor heart rhythm. A pager-like device picks up the signals.

The device essentially picks up the heart beat tracing. Part of this is called the S-T segment. Sudden shifts in the S-T segment can be caused by a sudden blockage in a heart artery. A heart attack is likely to follow.

If these changes in the S-T segment occur, alarms will go off. You would call 911 at that point.

“This alarm goes off, they call EMS, they get here sooner, and the whole process gets shortened. And it’s all about saving lives, saving heart muscle,” explains Dr. Lasorda.

The sooner you get to the hospital, the sooner you can get a procedure to open up the blockage. He finds many people wait too long — and that’s time and heart muscle you can’t get back.

“They’ll wait six hours, eight hours, they think it’s indigestion,” he says. “Some patients are rather stoic, in denial, and they’ll sit at home with this pain for hours. Well, they’re losing – heart muscle is dying.”

The device is only available as part of a research study. The doctors are looking for 10 patients from the Pittsburgh area.

It’s part of a larger study taking place across many medical centers. The patients they’re looking for have a history of heart attack, heart failure, bypass surgery or stents.

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