New cardiac arrest treatment aims to triple survival rates (Dr. Brian Grunau, St. Paul's Hospital)

A trial of the protocol, called ECPR, is being conducted by St. Paul’s Hospital and B.C. Emergency Health Services, and involves a rapid, co-ordinated response with specially trained paramedics and the cardiac team.

En route to hospital, paramedics fit the patient with a LUCAS chest compression system: an electrically-powered device that can perform external cardiac massage in tricky transport conditions such as inside a moving ambulance. The system also frees up the rescuers to focus on other tasks.

At the hospital, an emergency physician, nurses, a cardiovascular surgeon and a perfusionist are quickly assembled to perform the treatment. Tubes are connected from the patient’s femoral arteries and veins to an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) machine that works like an external heart, pumping the patient’s blood through the body, organs and brain.

Nick Eagland reports

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