July 14, 2016 1:46 am

Doctors at Vancouver hospital hope new cardiac arrest technology saves lives

WATCH: A new program at Vancouer's St. Paul's Hospital aims to dramatically increase the survival rate among people who go into cardiac arrest. Linda Aylesworth has more.

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Despite all of the advances in medical science, going into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital often ends in tragedy.

But a new program at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital aims to increase the odds of survival.

The new trial uses a chest compression machine named Lucas.

“These devices are amazing in that don’t tire out until the battery does,” advanced care paramedic Brian Twaites said.

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That is important because a person can only effectively administer CPR for a few minutes before wearing out.

Lucas is also useful because it can perform CPR in the back of a moving ambulance, which can prove challenging to a paramedic.

If fact in B.C., CPR is rarely performed inside an ambulance.

“Once, the idea of transporting someone into the hospital was a futile effort because there was nothing we could do as emergency physicians for that patient in the hospital that couldn’t be done in the field,” Dr. William Dick of Emergency Health Services said.

But that is changing. A study launched at St. Paul’s uses Lucas to get critical patients to hospital where doctors can then use a heart lung bypass machine known as ECMO.

“It connected to the patient’s vessels and that replaces the functions of the heart and lungs to allow doctors time to figure out what caused the cardiac arrest,” St. Paul’s emergency physician Brian Grunau said.

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St. Paul’s is the only hospital in Canada using ECMO in an emergency setting.

Last year they used Lucas and ECMO to save the life of Genya Kaplun after he was found unresponsive on the balcony of his home.

“They weren’t able to revive me but I was lucky Dr. Joe Finkler was on duty as an emergency physician at St. Paul’s and he said, ‘Let’s try this,'” Kaplun said.

“Lucas was the bridge that allowed us to think and get ready for ECMO…and putting the patient on pump,” St. Paul’s Hospital emergency physician Dr. Joe Finkler said.

Since the study began in January, six cardiac arrest patients – who would have previously been declared dead at the scene – were treated this way and three survived.

“For some people, I think we can push the survival rate from around 12 to 13 per cent to as high as 50 per cent,” Finkler said. “That’s huge.”

– With files from Linda Aylesworth

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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