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St. Paul's Hospital trial to save cardiac arrest victims

Last Updated Jul 14, 2016 at 7:59 am PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 staff photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) –┬áIt might be the CPR of the future: a new system under trial in Vancouver could save lives both at and on the way to the hospital.

St. Paul’s Hospital and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) have launched a trial that involves the use of a portable chest compression machine on scene and a larger, external blood pump at the hospital.

It’s called the BC Extracorporeal Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Trial for Refractory Out-of-Hospital Cardiac.

“It a paradigm shift in how we treat cardiac arrest because historically we treated it at the scene and (patients) got the full care that they can get in the hospital,” BCEHS medical programs vice president Dr. William Dick says. “Reason for that is It’s literally almost impossible to safely and effectively transport someone in cardiac arrest in a moving ambulance or down a set of stairs and do effective CPR.”

When paramedics arrive on the scene of someone experiencing cardiac arrest, they’ll start performing manual CPR for up to 10 minutes and assess whether the person is fit to use the automatic machine. The patient can then continue to receive CPR on the way to the hospital and potentially be hooked up to the larger machine called the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (ECMO-CPR).

Advanced Care Paramedic Ron Straight says he’s thrilled the machine provides steady compression for as long as you want.

“A device like this will be huge because it doesn’t have that (pressure) variability and doesn’t fatigue,” he says. “This has been the focus of medical conferences. Without the compressions, there’s no chance of revival.”

The program is the first of it’s kind in North America and has already helped save the life of at least one patient.

Genya Kaplun, 40, was found unresponsive on his balcony. Paramedics performed CPR before taking him to the hospital where they hooked him up to the automatic chest compressor until they could use the ECMO-CPR.

“All I know is that the LUCAS machine really did save my life,” Kaplun says. “When I woke up I have a little burn on my chest from the Lucas machine because it was on me for three and a half hours. A small price to pay to be alive.”

Kaplun is among the 627 suspected cardiac arrest cases that Vancouver and North Vancouver paramedics responded to last year. Typically only 14 per cent of out-of-hospital cases survive and cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in BC and Canada.

Thirty advanced care paramedics in Vancouver and North Shore have been trained in the new system. The trial is expected to last two years to evaluate its effectiveness.