Dare County EMS using ‘LUCAS device’ to decrease cardiac arrest deaths

Health Watch

DARE COUNTY, N.C. (WAVY) — Every year, 475,000 Americans die from cardiac arrest, and more than 350,000 of those cases happen outside of the hospital. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can increase a person’s chance of survival, but only if it’s done correctly.

A department on the Outer Banks is using a technology called the LUCAS device to help with CPR. Officials with Dare County EMS say it increases a person’s chance of survival in an emergency.

When a person is in cardiac arrest, seconds matter. Immediate CPR can double or triple someone’s chance of survival. However, CPR can be physically fatiguing. Plus, the American Heart Association says rescuers should switch every two minutes, which increases gaps in care.

Dare County EMS Chief Jennie Collins says that is where the LUCAS device comes in.

“The LUCAS Device is a device that delivers mechanical CPR compressions,” said Collins.

When a person goes into cardiac arrest and paramedics are called, they attach the device immediately. It takes about seven seconds to put on a patient. Then, it’s a push of a button and compressions begin.

Because it’s mechanical, the LUCAS device eliminates the possibility of human error and exhaustion of medics.

“You don’t have to worry about switching people out so much,” said Collins. “You can move with it in place, it stays in place and you can continue to give that therapy.”

All of that combined gives the patient the greatest chance of survival.

“It’s like the fight of your life because you’re fighting for this person’s life,” said Deputy Chief Terence Sheehy.

Not only does the LUCAS device help the patient, but it also helps their family.

“Being able to talk with them to say, ‘We’re putting a tube in your loved one so that we’re able to breathe. This device is squeezing their heart so it’s circulating their blood. We’re trying to get the medicine moving, we’re trying to get their heart restarted,’ and explaining it and not just them on the sidelines not knowing what’s going on,” said Sheehy.

The LUCAS device isn’t cheap. It retails for more than $17,000. Dare County EMS purchased 25 devices, so they got the price of each down to just over $13,000. It’s part of a $1.1-million upgrade to EMS equipment in the county.

“Having that device, being able to be in place if the patient goes into cardiac arrest once we’ve resuscitated them, is very helpful for us,” Collins said.

Paramedics started using the LUCAS device last fall, and it only took 24 hours before they needed it for a patient.

Collins says it’s hard to know just how much of an impact the device is having.

“You never know. When you do something in a preventative-type manner, is it really … what could’ve happened if it wasn’t there?” she said.

Even so, she’s confident this device is a better, more efficient way of giving CPR.

“It is a tremendous asset,” said Collins.

Dare County officials say 95 percent of people will fit into the LUCAS device, but it’s not suitable to use on children under the age of eight years old.

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