Univ. of Minn. looks to improve cardiac arrest survival

- Sudden cardiac arrest victims who used to get pronounced dead at the scene can live and thrive, according to a study by the University of Minnesota Health.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, claims half of patients suffering a type of cardiac arrest, called ventricular fibrillation, survived during the study’s three-month period. Ventricular fibrillation victims don’t respond to repeated shocks.

“We said if this population that does not come back with multiple shocks comes early to the cath lab, with ongoing CPR, we might have the ability to rescue these patients,” said Dr. Demetris Yannopolous, the chair of the Minnesota Resuscitation Consortium at the University of Minnesota.

In the study, Dr. Yannopolous trained emergency medical services at North Memorial Ambulance Service, St. Paul Fire, and Ridgeview EMS systems. The EMS organizations were taught to identify patients not responding to shocks. These patients were then attached to a machine that provides mechanical CPR, and brought to the University of Minnesota’s cath lab. Half survived.

“What we’ve already done is establish the effectiveness of the therapy. Now, I’m training the next generation,” Dr. Yannopolous told Fox 9.

Nationally, cardiac arrest kills more than 90-percent of its victims. In Minnesota, it kills 85-percent. In Hennepin County, the percentage gets lower. The Twin Cities is already a nationwide leader in responding to cardiac arrest, and Dr. Yannopolous believes his study can significantly raise the survival rate by quickly identifying those not responding to shocks.

“The idea is we bring them in, we take over circulation, heart function and lung function. That gives us time to deal with a problem that is reversible,” Dr. Yannopolous said. “And the heat now has the ability to restart.”

On Monday evening, survivors in the study had a chance to meet with their doctors and rescuers.

“Thank you doesn’t seem like big enough word. I just feel very blessed to be in their presence,” Audrey Baumtrog, one of the survivors, told Fox 9.

Cardiac arrest is the term used to describe when the heart stops. It can be caused by a heart attack or other problems.

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