Mayo Clinic improving care for cardiac arrest patients

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(ABC 6 News) – Local first responders are teaming up to learn better ways to treat patients experiencing cardiac arrest.

Mayo Clinic ambulance workers and Rochester firefighters have been training for the past month to streamline a process that’s normally done in the hospital.

When emergency crews arrive on scene to help someone who has gone into cardiac arrest, they start giving CPR and use an AED. But sometimes patients don’t respond to the shock from an AED. So now Mayo Clinic is leading an effort to help restore a patient’s heart rhythm using a different process.

“So, once we arrive on scene. They have had multiple shocks. We know that keys us in that the patient might most benefit from ECMO,” said Operations Manager Kate Arms.

Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO is a machine that takes over the function of a patient’s lung and heart. When first responders first come in contact with a patient experiencing cardiac arrest, using this new training, they’ll be able to assess the patient to see if they would qualify for ECMO. If they do, and they’re within 30 minutes of a hospital, it can speed up the lifesaving process once they get there.

“That will give us the insight to alert the ED that we are coming and then expedite our transport there,” said Arms.

This assessment is normally done at the hospital. But a recent study from the University of Minnesota shows that if a patient has early access to ECMO and chest compressions or for short ECPR they are six times more likely to survive. That’s why Mayo Clinic has decided to start assessing patients in the field.

“A patient who suffers a cardiac arrest in really any situation, out in public, at a sporting event, in their own home or anywhere else could potentially benefit for this,” said Mayo Clinic Physician Dr. Aaron Klassen.

Dr. Klassen added only about eight people a year will qualify for this, but he says every life is important to save.

“The vast majority of people who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital will not survive and this program give a few of them a much better chance of survival,” said Klassen.

There are a few other places in the country that have a program similar to this, and experts say those programs have been successful. The first responders are wrapping up the training process, and the program will officially be in place by the end of this week.