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New device adds extra squeeze

By Ed Brock

It's not the kind of hug most people would want, but it would still save their lives.

A squeeze from the AutoPulse Resuscitation System by Revivant Corp. can be just the thing for someone in the throes of a major heart attack, and the Forest Park Fire Department is hoping to add it to its arsenal of life-saving devices.

"Of course we're always looking for ways to give our public the best services available," Fire Chief Eddie Buckholts said.

Forest Park Fire Maj. Paul Beamon, who oversees the department's training, has acquired an AutoPulse for a test run. The device is basically a computerized backboard with a belt that wraps around the patient's chest. Sensors on the board detect the patient's weight and chest size and automatically pulls the belt snug.

Once activated, the AutoPulse then rhythmically squeezes the chest 15 times and pauses before resuming, just like a paramedic would do when administering CPR by hand.

"When you do CPR like that, even when it's done well, it only restores less than 10 to 20 percent of normal blood flow," Beamon said. "With the device it can increase it to 30 or 40 percent."

Another advantage is that the AutoPulse squeezes the entire chest, getting more blood flowing to the brain. In tests done on pigs by the Stanford University School of Medicine the device saved three-quarters of the test animals. None of the animals survived when conventional CPR was provided.

"What was even more astounding than the survival rate was that 88 percent of the surviving animals had normal brain functions," Dr. Mehrdad Rezaee, a clinical science research associate in the Stanford Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, said in a press release from the college.

There are about 460,000 sudden cardiac arrests a year in America and often by the time paramedics arrive the patient is at a stage in the heart attack in which defibrillators cannot be used.

Also, the device would allow emergency medical technicians and paramedics to continue the CPR while on the move.

"We can move the patient down a flight of steps and get them in the truck while giving them better CPR than we could by hand," Beamon said.

The AutoPulse costs $13,000 apiece so the department is hoping to obtain some grants to defray or cover the cost of buying at least one.

"I am diligently working and I have a couple of avenues I can take and cards I can play to see if I can get one," Beamon said.

The department has also been testing another device called an adult interosseous needle since August. That device allows for the injection of drugs directly into a patient's bone marrow when their veins have collapsed from cardiac failure.

"We've used it four to five times so far and the medics love it," Beamon said.

The patients in those cases did not survive but Beamon said that as part of the test they may only use the needle in extreme cases.