A gift of $3.2 million to Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services will be distributed to EMS agencies throughout Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Wednesday.
The gift from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will purchase 222 automatic compression devices — called the Physio-Control LUCAS 2 Chest Compression System — which can perform high-quality chest compressions for people in cardiac arrest, along with funding education for the public and dispatchers and purchasing software to collect data on the use of automatic compression systems. The data will be used as part of a University of North Dakota project.
The LUCAS compression systems cost $11,000 each, which accounts for $2.4 million of the funds. The remainder of the funds will pay for education and software.
DPHHS representatives will be out in communities soon to work with them on the education component of CPR and AED use and bystander intervention. The first compression systems will hopefully be delivered in 50 communities within six months, said Jim DeTienne, DPHHS Emergency Medical Services and Trauma Systems Section supervisor.
Within about 18 months, DeTienne hopes to have all 222 compression systems delivered to EMS services, non-transporting first response units and critical access hospitals. Training and delivery of the devices will occur on a rolling basis, he said.
The compression system goes around a patient’s chest and provides high-quality chest compressions continuously.
American Heart Association guidelines issued in 2010 say that adequate chest compressions for a patient in cardiac arrest is at least 100 chest compressions per minute.
“With maybe two people doing it, it’s not an easy task,” DeTienne said.
The LUCAS device provides steady two-inch chest compressions, which effectively provides a manual heartbeat and gets oxygenated blood to the body and the brain.
“Once somebody’s in cardiac arrest, within six minutes their heart and brain is beginning to die,” DeTienne said. “So if you don’t have high-quality CPR past a few minutes, the patient is going to die no matter what you do, how good your EMS system is.”
Justin Grohs, director of Great Falls Emergency Services, cited a few advantages to the LUCAS device, which GFES has had for a little more than a year.
The device allows for continuous, high-quality compressions without multiple people stopping and trading off compressions. Sometimes during patient transport, say while EMTs are transporting down a flight of stairs, doing effective chest compressions is impossible. With a LUCAS device affixed around the patient’s torso, there is no need to stop for any reason.
“Every time you stop, when you restart it takes a few compressions to build pressure to move blood out of the heart,” Grohs explained. “Then you restart and have to pump a few times to get the pressure back up.”
The LUCAS device just does better CPR than a human can, Grohs said.
DeTienne said that so far, the feedback he’s received from EMS services has been positive.
“It takes a lot of work and stress out of doing CPR on the call, especially when you have a 20 to 30 minute transport to the hospital,” he said.
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