This blog has two main components. One deals with the extraordinary function of Cardiac Catheter Labs and the other deals with the problem of government run medicine.
(Data sources are here.)
A cardiac catheter lab is a room with a surgical table and all of the associated surgical equipment plus an imaging machine that allows continuous imaging of the patient. The images are transmitted along with other vital signs to a small control room. The Cath Lab is operated by 5 to 7 trained personnel including surgeons and technicians. Most labs are installed in pairs so multiple emergency patients can be treated as the team moves from one lab to the next.
A standard fully equipped Cath Lab costs more than $1 million and most of them are installed in pairs at several $ million. The prices are coming down as one would expect in a commercial society. There are roughly 5,500 Cath Lab's in the United States and I don't know how many of those are pairs.
In these 5,500 Labs there are roughly 1,000,000 annual catheterizations in which the doctor enters the patient's artery via the arm or leg and operates on the moving heart. Roughly half of these, 0.5 million involved implanting a stent. A stent is used to keep an artery open after a clot has been removed.
Cath labs have been in use for more than a decade and are now fairly close to most people in the United States. The effectiveness of a catheter lab in avoiding a heart attack with permanent damage is based on getting the patient to the lab in less than an hour and preferably less than half an hour after onset of symptoms.
It is my opinion, that we will begin to see a significant and abrupt increase in the lifespan of American males as soon as reliable data is available. I would expect the addition of one to two years in male lifespan within the next five years. Males tend to have a higher death rate due to heart disease.
I am unable to get reliable data about the number of cath labs in other parts of the world. From what I can tell there are about 10 labs per million people in England, less than 10 per million in Canada and roughly 3 per million in Australia and New Zealand. In the United States there are more than 20 per million people.
This takes me to the second point which is that the English-speaking countries who have nationalized healthcare are finding it much more difficult to finance these multimillion dollar life-saving facilities. I assume that in the rest of the world, it is even more difficult to get these very expensive life-saving facilities. That is probably because national healthcare is ultra cautious and ultra-stingy. It is also harmful to the health of a population in a period of dynamic healthcare technological change.