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Paramedics adjust to procedure change

Frederick News-Post (MD)


Aug. 09--Every minute counts if you are experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, so instead of taking patients straight to a hospital, paramedics in Maryland will now perform 15 minutes of high performance CPR on the spot.

"This is a huge change in procedure," Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Services Battalion Chief Dennis Fortney said in a telephone interview Thursday.

The change, which went into effect July 1, is based on recommendations from organizations such as the American Heart Association, the National Association of Emergency Service Physicians and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Studies have shown that patients who survive cardiac arrest have the best outcome when cardiopulmonary resuscitation is performed as quickly as possible. Statistics, however, show that doing CPR first does not increase survival rates.

"We are bringing the emergency room to the patient," said Frank Davis, chief of Vigilant Hose Co. in Emmitsburg, whose company has already received training in the state's new protocol.

An adjustment period is expected and more training will take place over the next year, according to Fortney, who said he recently attended a meeting where local nursing homes and the Department of Aging received information about the new procedure.

"I think it's a good thing, but it's actually a hard thing because for us it's culture shock, too," Fortney said.

Until now, it was common for paramedics to spend about 15 minutes at the scene of a cardiac arrest call, but not all that time was spent solely on CPR, said Doug Brown, community liaison and spokesman for the Division of Fire and Rescue Services.

There was a rush to put the patient on a flat board and secure him or her in an ambulance, and then it was time for takeoff. All those maneuvers take time.

Now, the focus is on CPR, but the change in procedure also has exceptions.

If a patient is pregnant or under age 18, the 15-minute rule would not apply. Cardiac arrest is also secondary to hypothermia and underwater submersion.

Rescue workers across Frederick County respond to 150 to 200 cardiac arrest calls each year, Fortney said.

Nationwide, more than 380,000 people experienced cardiac arrest outside a hospital, according to the American Heart Association. Of those, 11 percent survived.

Fewer than half of those cases involved a bystander giving CPR. To improve survival rates, Fortney suggests that more people learn CPR because every minute counts when a person is in cardiac arrest.

And he hopes families understand that local paramedics and EMTs are doing "everything that needs to be done."

Follow Cara R. Anthony on Twitter: @CaraRAnthony.


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