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At 6 a.m. Thursday, a doctor driving to Franklin Square Hospital Center answered his cell phone and saw the electrocardiogram of a patient being taken by ambulance to the emergency room. The mobile monitor, one of 12 the hospital donated to the Baltimore County Fire Department, simultaneously sent that comprehensive image to the hospital's emergency staff, who immediately began preparing to receive the patient.

"We were aware of the case immediately and were able to shorten the treatment time," said Dr. Michael Pipkin, Franklin Square's emergency department chairman. "This is a critical piece of information that we have struggled for years to get as early as possible."

In an arena where survivability is measured in minutes spent from "door to balloon or angioplasty," every second saved means less damage to the heart, he said.

"We can take a comprehensive look at the heart and forward it right away to the receiving hospital," said Kyrle W. Preis III, director of emergency service at the county Fire Department, which handles about 100,000 calls annually.

The 12 Lifenet EKG transmission devices, valued at a total of about $4,000, were affixed to cardiac monitors on ambulances throughout the county's eastern area. Less than 24 hours after the devices went on line, emergency personnel in Essex sent the hospital 12 different views of an emergency patient's heart.

"Our goal is to restore blood flow to the heart as soon as possible and mitigate the damage," said Dr. Sriram Padmanabhan, chief of cardiology at Franklin Square. "The promise of Lifenet lies in the shortened time it provides. The physician can identify a heart attack even before seeing the patient."

The devices also can transmit to monitors in Upper Chesapeake Center in Bel Air and St. Joseph Hospital in Towson, which gave the department 15 Lifenet devices last year. With Franklin Square's donation, 27 of the department's 50 ambulances are equipped with the technology.

"We are working with other hospital partners, and I anticipate by next year, we will have 100 percent capability," Preis said.

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