Arkansas’ largest ambulance service has doubled the percentage of patients it revives from cardiac arrest since altering its treatment protocol in November. Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services (MEMS) of Little Rock said that performing uninterrupted CPR on the scene has returned cardiac activity to almost 33 percent of patients. That figure hovered around 15 percent before the new guidelines took effect Nov. 23.
The agency, which responds to more than 700 cardiac arrest calls per year, is among many in the country that now favor extended CPR at the scene instead of quick transport. Ambulance services in Maine, Arizona and Washington state have seen similar increases in the number of revived patients, according to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services.
Cardiologist Dr. Doug Holloway, with the Baptist Health Heart Institute, agrees that the new protocol is showing positive results.
Cardiac arrest — the abrupt loss of heart function caused by malfunctioning electrical impulses — is the third-leading cause of death in America behind cancer and heart disease, according to the Academies of Medicine. It affects nearly 600,000 people per year, often those with coronary artery disease. Survivors who don’t receive immediate treatment can suffer brain damage within minutes.
Nearly 80 percent of cases occur in the home, meaning ambulance services such as MEMS are usually among the first to provide aid.
The agency considered public service announcements to inform the 530,000 residents it serves in Pulaski, Faulkner, Grant and Lonoke counties of the new cardiac arrest protocol. Officials were concerned that residents expecting hospital transport might find CPR lacking in urgency.