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September 22, 2016

Iowa paramedics receive device that automatically performs CPR during rescues

By Jeff Reinitz
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

WATERLOO, Iowa  Waterloo paramedics will get a helping hand when it comes to performing CPR.

Currently, medics have to cease chest compressions — or attempt sub-par compressions — when moving a patient up or down stairs, squeezing through tight spaces or transitioning into and out of an ambulance.

That is serious risk, because the chest compression aspect of CPR is the most important part of the technique, said Dr. Chris Hill, a UnityPoint-Allen Hospital emergency room doctor who serves as Waterloo Fire Rescue’s medical officer.

“If we’re not doing the compressions, if we are taking breaks, taking additional pauses, doing rhythm checks, stopping so we can put an airway in, I can guarantee you the patient is rapidly declining,” Hill said. “Getting blood to the heart is the whole concept here. Every time you stop, it takes about 20 seconds to get that coronary profusion pressure back up.”

On Wednesday, firefighters and medics learned how to eliminate CPR downtime with a mechanical device that automatically works the chest as rescue crews move the patient.

The Zoll Autopulse uses a padded belt placed around the patient’s chest that ties into a backboard. The battery-powered board pulls the belt to squeeze the chest and cycle the heart.

During Wednesday’s practice session, paramedics started hands-on CPR on a training dummy and then moved it from the fire station’s basement to an ambulance on the ground floor. They had to stop compressions while carrying the dummy up the steps. Crews then performed the same drill using the Autopulse.

Barb McBride, medical supervisor for Waterloo Fire Rescue, said the Autopulse guarantees the compressions have the same frequency and depth. She noted it can also work while a patient is seated or standing, a feature that comes in handy when moving someone involves confined elevators where it isn’t possible to keep the patient horizontal.

The fire department’s Autopulse is the only one currently in the city, Hill said. McBride said the equipment will be placed on Ambulance No. 331, the city’s busiest, which is based at the Franklin Street headquarters.

Hill has treated patients brought to the emergency room attached to Autopulses when he worked at other hospitals. He said the equipment allows physicians to concentrate on diagnosing and administering other treatment.

An Autopulse device cost $14,500, and the fire department is exploring funding to place units on more ambulances.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2016 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier