New cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques could save the lives of thousands of cardiac arrest patients each year if implemented nationwide, according to the results of a study that included patients treated by Whatcom County emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
Whatcom Medic One was among the local agencies involved in the study.
Whatcom County was one of seven sites in the U.S. participating in a clinical trial comparing CPR techniques used by rescuers in the field. The study spanned nearly five years and included 46 emergency medical services agencies in urban, suburban and rural areas, with a combined total population of 2.3 million.
The study compared patients treated with the combined use of two CPR-assisting devices against those receiving conventional, manual CPR. A significantly higher percentage of patients who experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survived after receiving CPR performed with devices that fully compress and decompress the lungs and control the flow of air in and out of them, improving circulation to the heart and brain during CPR.
Dr. Marvin Wayne, state-appointed Whatcom County Medical Program Director and study co-author, said he expects these devices will be commonly used around the country in the future.
"For the first time ever we have shown that these devices increase the prospect of restoring a pulse during CPR and improve patient outcome in terms of both long-term survival and protecting brain function," Wayne said "Bellingham and Whatcom County can be very proud of their contribution to this pioneering research by showing this method works in rural communities as well as in densely populated cities."
Wayne said participation in this study by Whatcom Medic One, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center and all Whatcom County fire agencies is the latest local collaboration in three decades of innovative research on cardiac arrest resuscitation and survivability.
Dr. Tom P. Aufderheide, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, a principal investigator and co-author of the study, said the goal of resuscitation during cardiac arrest is long-term survival with preservation of brain function.
"This new, effective intervention achieves that goal and is potentially the most significant advancement in the treatment of cardiac arrest since defibrillation," Aufderheide said.
According to statistics cited in the study, each year approximately 300,000 Americans experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The national average for survival to hospital discharge is only about 5 percent. However, in this study, patients who received CPR by rescuers using the device combination had a 53 percent higher survival-to-hospital discharge rate with favorable neurologic function than those who did not, and a significant survival benefit was still present one year after the initial cardiac arrest event.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health and sponsored by Advanced Circulatory Systems, Inc., the study was published Jan. 19, 2011 in the online edition of the medical journal The Lancet.
Published: Jan 20, 2011