A new technology gives area medics a helping hand in performing potentially lifesaving CPR.
Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service recently purchased the LUCAS 2 automated chest compression systems for ambulances in Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties.
When a patient goes into cardiac arrest, CPR provides the steady circulation needed to supply oxygen to the heart and brain. But CPR often proves taxing on even trained medics during a long, jostling ride in the back of an ambulance.
“You don’t do effective CPR in the back of an ambulance. You can try,” Gold Cross CEO Vince Brogdon said, adding that medics usually perform one-handed CPR in the ambulance while holding onto something. “In just a couple of minutes, you’ll wear out. I don’t care how good of shape you’re in.”
The battery-powered LUCAS 2 straps to a patient’s chest and performs chest compressions.
Chest compressions done in CPR should be hard, fast and continuous, Gold Cross Director of Clinical Services Maj. Michael Willis said. The quality of the compressions usually drops after just a few minutes.
Because there’s no hospital in Columbia County, all patients in cardiac arrest must be transported to facilities elsewhere for treatment.
“(Gold Cross) owner Bo Pounds, when something comes out, if it’s something that is going to be beneficial for the patient, he wants to get it first,” Brogdon said. “He wants to be the pioneer of getting it on the trucks first.”
Brogdon said 20 of the devices went into service in the three counties, including five ambulances in Columbia County. They cost about $15,000 each, but Gold Cross got a discount for purchasing 20 for the three counties.
Within its first week, Gold Cross medics responded to four cardiac arrests where they used the device, and one patient was resuscitated.
“That was a real good statistic,” Willis said. “This machine goes hard, fast and continuous. You can’t beat this machine.”
The machine can be used in rescue situations where traditional CPR can’t be performed. In addition to keeping medics safer during ambulance transportation, the machine frees them up to monitor medications and deal with other injuries or medical situations.
The device can be used in conjunction with a portable ventilator that gives oxygenated breaths to the patient during CPR.
“Your ICU unit is in the back of an ambulance,” Brogdon said.
The device carries less of a risk of injury, such as broken ribs and bruising, during CPR because it is consistent, compressing 2 inches into the chest each time, Willis said.
Medics, he said, can accidentally push too far because of bumps in the road and other factors.
The only drawback to the machine is that it can’t be used on very large patients because it must be strapped on over the chest. According to the specifications, it can fit over most children and adults up to 450 pounds.
Overall, Brogdon said the device can provide lifesaving CPR in conditions that even trained medics can’t. “This (machine) never stops.”