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Chest Pain Center

Central Virginia’s First Rural Accredited Chest Pain Center

Bedford Memorial Hospital (BMH) was awarded the Accredited Chest Pain Center designation from the Society of Chest Pain Centers (SCPC). Currently, there are only 505 SCPC-accredited chest pain centers nationwide.

To earn SCPC accreditation, hospitals must demonstrate that they have the commitment and resources to provide quality cardiac care. According to David B. Alligood, M.D., medical director for BMH’s Emergency Department and co-director for the BMH Chest Pain Center, earning the SCPC accreditation was a 12-month process.

“The bulk of the process involved us formalizing and implementing evidence-based criteria for people who have chest pain,” says Dr. Alligood. “Every person on the team – from rescue personnel and hospitalists, to the doctors, nurses and those in the obstetrics/gynecology and intensive care units – had to be educated on the criteria. We had to be on the same page with everything.”

Throughout the 12 months of preparation, members of the BMH nursing staff met with hospitalists and emergency medical services (EMS) workers and paramedics to help ensure all parties were tightly integrated with BMH’s physicians and nurses.

“As part of the chest pain protocol, emergency workers in the field can transmit electrocardiogram (EKG) and other vital information directly to our emergency department by radio and fax, allowing doctors to prepare an immediate response,” Dr. Alligood said.

Teamwork for Better Care

Most people who arrive at Bedford Memorial Hospital with chest pain are put on 23-hour “observation status.” During that time, such patients receive three sets of blood work and various heart exams. In addition to treating patients who are currently experiencing heart problems, the Chest Pain Center focuses on preventing cardiovascular diseases.

“One of our main goals is to identify and treat heart disease earlier in life, even preventing its beginnings,” says Dr. Alligood. “By doing so, this will enable patients to make lifestyle changes now and add years to one’s lifespan.”

Dr. Alligood says a high level of teamwork is vital to BMH being able to achieve exceptional quality in areas like chest pain treatment. For example, more than 95 percent of the time, people who come into BMH’s emergency room with chest pain can get an EKG within 10 minutes.

The key is getting to the Chest Pain Center when the signs of cardiac issues arise.

“If you experience chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, don’t wait,” Alligood says. “Call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention immediately. As a chest pain center, it’s our job to figure out what’s going on, and to fast-track treatment if you’re really having heart problems.”

To learn more about the signs of heart attack, visit

Heart Attack Warning Signs

A heart attack is a frightening event, and you probably don’t want to think about it. But, if you learn the signs of a heart attack and what steps to take, you can save a life–maybe your own.

What are the signs of a heart attack? Many people think a heart attack is sudden and intense, like a “movie” heart attack, where a person clutches his or her chest and falls over.

The truth is that many heart attacks start slowly, as a mild pain or discomfort. If you feel such a symptom, you may not be sure what’s wrong. Your symptoms may even come and go. Even those who have had a heart attack may not recognize their symptoms, because the next attack can have entirely different ones.

Women may not think they’re at risk of having a heart attack–but they are. Learn more about women and heart attack.

It’s vital that everyone learn the warning signs of a heart attack. These are:
• Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
• Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
• Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

For more information visit the Act in time to Heart Attack Signs.

Call 9-1-1

The first step to take when a heart attack happens is to call 9-1-1. Call whether you’re sure you’re having a heart attack or not.

Anyone showing heart attack warning signs needs to receive medical treatment right away. Don’t wait more than a few minutes—5 minutes at most—to call 9-1-1.

Calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance is the best way to get to the hospital because:

Emergency medical personnel (also called EMS, for emergency medical services) can begin treatment immediately–even before arrival at the hospital.

The heart may stop beating during a heart attack. This is called sudden cardiac arrest. Emergency personnel have the equipment needed to start the heart beating again.

Heart attack patients who arrive by ambulance tend to receive faster treatment on their arrival at the hospital.

If for some reason, you are having heart attack symptoms and cannot call 9-1-1, have someone else drive you at once to the hospital. Never drive yourself to the hospital, unless you absolutely have no other choice.