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Twenty three hospitals in the state, including several in the Baltimore area, have been designated as "cardiac interventional centers" by the state emergency management system. That means if you're having the most common type of heart attack that the ambulance will take you to one of these places.

They have demonstrated that they can effectively handle those experiencing an ST-elevation myocardial infarction, or STEMI. A STEMI occurs when an artery supplying blood to the heart is suddenly blocked.

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The designation is one of many that the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems has established. Others are for trauma, burns, spinal cord injuries, pediatrics, eye, hand/upper extremity, hyperbaric, neurotrauma, perinatal and stroke.

The cardiac designation is a result of a recommendation made in 2007 by the American Heart Association, which was aiming to improve outcomes for STEMI sufferers. The association estimates that About 400,000 Americans experience a STEMI every year. In Maryland, approximately 5,600 do. And only half call 911 and are transported by ambulance to a hospital that performs the recommended procedure, balloon angioplasty, to improve the blood supply.

With most heart attacks, people feel discomfort in the center of the chest that last more than a few minutes or that goes away and returns. It can feel like pressure, squeezing or pain. There may also be pain in the arm, back, neck, jaw or stomach and shortness of breath. Some sweat, feel nauseated and lightheaded. The emergency officials say to call for help if you have these symptoms.

The cardiac hospitals in the area include: Anne Arundel Medical Center, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Carroll Hospital Center, Franklin Square Hospital Center, Howard County General Hospital, The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, St. Agnes Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, Union Memorial Hospital, University of Maryland Medical Center and Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

The hospitals were all designated for cardiac care three years, and will need to be renewed after that. The designations for hospitals in other categories last from one to five years.

For a list of all the cardiac hospitals and the other trauma and specialty hospitals, click here.

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