Hotline for heart doctors saves lives of Minnesota patients

A special hot line for doctors is available at hospitals across Minnesota and puts a team of medical responders into motion when seconds can make all the difference.

Aortic aneurysms, most common in men over 65 with a history of smoking, often occur without any warning. People only make it to the hospital about 20 percent of the time and even then, getting the right help quickly is everything.

Chuck Weinmann and his family were terrified on the morning of Nov. 28, not knowing if Chuck was having a stroke or a heart attack. He was rushed from his home in Chisago City to the nearest hospital in Wyoming.

There a doctor had the foresight to give him an ultrasound and detected the aortic aneurysm within seconds.

“Only certain centers in the state are going to be able to handle that problem. So it becomes very important outing hospitals have a way to get patients rapidly, to centers that can take care of the disease,” Dr. Rumi Faizer, a vascular surgeon at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Dr. Faizer helped launch the Code Red Aortic Hotline in Minnesota.

When Weinmann’s doctor in Wyoming calls the number, he is immediately put on a conference call with Dr. Faizer, a cardiologist and an intervention radiologist. Together, they quickly put into motion the best plan for the patient, when seconds count.

“To the average person and even emergency room technician, the aorta is the aorta. What used to happen is they have a ruptured aorta, then they would look at the pictures and say ‘Oh, you need the other guy,’ and that would be a terrible waste,” Faizer said.

In Chuck Weinmann’s case, by the he arrived at the U of M, a team was waiting.

“I remember them taking me out of the ambulance and there must have been 15 people standing around waiting for me,” Weinmann said.

Six weeks later, after a procedure through a small incision in his leg, Weinmann is feeling like himself again. 

“It is definitely the case that he would not be with us today without the alert emergency doctor, the rapid transfer and the ability to perform the surgery,” Weinmann’s wife, Lane, said.

Since this hotline went into place in late 2014, physicians for roughly 50 patients from all over the state have utilized it.

While aortic aneurysms are impossible to detect without an ultrasound, the next goal for these doctors at the U of M is a pilot program which would make getting ultrasound screenings easier.