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West Metro Fire

By Ronda Scholting

The patient was in obvious distress, unconscious, not breathing, no pulse. The crew of West Metro firefighters immediately started administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), pushing forcefully and rhythmically on his chest. Their goal – to get the patient breathing and his heart pumping again.

While this scenario played out with a mannequin, in a training room, the aim was to prepare the crew for real life situations. Every year, West Metro Fire Rescue routinely answers more than 22,000 medical calls. And, a number of those are potentially life threatening, like a heart attack, where seconds count. And where quick and decisive intervention results in better outcomes – and higher patient survival rates.

For years, manual CPR has been the standard for patients with cardiac problems. And, while thousands have been saved as a result of properly administered CPR, for fire crews, the dilemma has always been continuity.

Patients that need immediate transport to the nearest hospital have to be moved – onto a gurney, into an ambulance and then into the hospital’s emergency room. And, crews often have to administer other treatments at the same time they’re giving CPR, which may mean pausing CPR compressions. The best CPR, according to medical research, is CPR that is continuous.

The solution is a high tech machine – called a LUCAS device – that performs CPR compressions for firefighters so they can tackle other aspects of critical patient care.

“The benefit of using the LUCAS device is that we’re able to do perfectly efficient CPR while we’re starting IV’s, while we’re giving cardiac medicines, or doing a number of other procedures,” said Lieutenant Mike Binney, West Metro Fire Rescue. “It limits the interruptions and the science shows that the longer you pause in between compressions, the less effective the CPR.”

West Metro will be adding LUCAS devices to several ambulances over the next month and crews have been training with the new technology on a special mannequin since the beginning of the year. The mannequin has CPR feedback software, which gives crews a comparison between their manual CPR and the LUCAS CPR.

During the training, the crews start with manual CPR, then attach the LUCAS device, which takes over chest compressions on the patient. The compressions are performed by a piston-like attachment, which can be adjusted for the size of the patient so that the compressions are right for them.

“It’s going to be a game changer in the way that we manage cardiac arrest patients,” said Binney.