Last week, South Lane County Fire and Rescue (SLCFR) strengthened its life-saving toolkit with the addition of six LUCAS devices, automated CPR machines designed to improve outcomes of sudden cardiac arrest victims.
“We’re ahead of [almost] everybody in the county that I’m aware of,” said SLCFR Division Chief Joe Raade. “Even Springfield hasn’t gotten them yet.”
The devices aid first responders by performing consistent, mechanical CPR on patients, freeing responders to do other work.
While strapped to a patient and performing chest compressions, the LUCAS machine continues working even as the individual is tilted to the side or transported to another location, guaranteeing uninterrupted compression.
Battery-run, the machines can continue compressing for a couple hours. Once in an ambulance or hospital, they can plug in and run indefinitely.
The consistency is an important live-saving measure. It takes one minute of proper chest compressions to generate blood flow to the brain. If compressions are stopped, that blood flow drops after only five seconds. Compressions interrupted for 10 seconds or more ceases all blood flow to the brain.
Performing chest compressions can be tiring work, too, and human compressors tend to lose their efficiency after about two minutes. This means a small response team will have to regularly cycle through crew members to produce consistent circulation.
Raade added that for every 10 seconds compressions are interrupted, it takes another 25 seconds to return that blood flow.
The LUCAS device can thus diminish any loss of circulation which might occur due to switching compressors.
“We all know that machines are lot more effective and efficient than us humans,” said Raade. “It’s like having a third or fourth person there.”
The process to acquire the devices started this spring, coming in at a total of $80,000 for the set. Now one is installed on each ambulance and another on a command rig.
“I’m guessing by the first of the year, all Lane County agencies will be using them,” said Raade.
Another advantage of the devices is the short training time required to learn to use them.
SLCFR Captain Darron Houck has found it a convenient addition to the crew’s inventory.
“In training, it works really well,” he said. “It’s easy to get a good grasp on and quickly get up to speed with.”
Crew have reportedly shaved preparation time with the devices down to 30 seconds.
The investment is likely to pay off in the long run, too. Raade believes SLCFR can get a solid decade of use out of devices.
One feature aiding in their longevity is the ability to be programmed.
“It used to be that [machine compressors] just came and then when the American Heart Association changed their rates, the devices became obsolete,” said Raade. “But the version we’ve purchased are reprogrammable — and I can actually program it from my desktop because they have Wi-Fi.”
The machines also collect and report measurement data so future use can be adjusted for efficiency.
Recent studies, such as one out of the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, have shown mechanical devices such as LUCAS to be safe, more efficient and more effective than manual CPR both in the field and during emergency medical transport, leading to better patient outcomes.
Within hours of completing training last week, SLCFR crew had an opportunity to put the new device to work, however the patient in this case was not able to be revived.
Raade pointed out that timing is key during cardiac arrest.
“With CPR, the sooner it’s started — whether it’s mechanical or manual by a human — the higher your chance your survival is,” he said.
Still, crew like Houck are happy the machine will ride along on future calls.
“If we’re short-handed on a call and having to do CPR, it can definitely make a big difference,” he said.
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