Local fire departments have been utilizing new resuscitation techniques in hopes of improving survival rates on cardiac-arrest emergency cases.
Many departments statewide have been involved in a two-year study on the efficacy of rapid, deep cardiac compressions, before any other treatment is provided. Emergency medical technicians in Mesa and Apache Junction have begun using hypothermia, which is believed to help keep neurological functions intact one a pulse is restored.
"It's something we've been working to increase the survivability of patients," said Mary Cameli, Mesa assistant fire chief. "We wondered what we could add to it to help even more, and that's when hypothermia came into play.
"It's a low-cost process. We're cooling the patient ahead of time. Studies have shown that (hypothermia) can help patients before surgery. The sooner we can start the process, the better off the patient is."
The survival rate after sudden, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is less than 8 percent, according to the American Heart Association.
In Mesa, which averages about one cardiac-arrest call a day, the process of minimally interrupted cardiac resuscitation (MICR) has improved the survival rate to 22 percent, Cameli said.
Hypothermia use went into effect on Oct. 11 at three stations, where coolers to store IV bags were purchased and placed in ambulances. Technicians have not had an opportunity to utilize it yet, Cameli said, because the three stations have not had a case where a pulse has been restored.
In Apache Junction, six hypothermia treatments have been given in the field over the last six months, battalion chief Rob Bessee said.
"We haven't had enough use to determine how effective it will be long-term, but we have had good outcomes with it," said Bessee, whose department receives about 10 cardiac-arrest calls a month. "When we get data that says (using hypothermia) is not effective, we'll stop. I'd expect that we'll keep doing this for years."
Dr. Bentley Bobrow, medical director for emergency services for the state, said that data on the effectiveness of hypothermia in the field is still being collected. He cited the success of MICR, saying that is the horse that needs to go before the hypothermia cart.
"The improvement in the types of CPR being performed is the most important thing," Bobrow said. Cooling won't help unless you get a pulse back.
"For now, the biggest benefit of the cooling is that it reminds the hospitals to continue with that process once the patient gets there."
By Dan Zeiger / The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.