STOW -- In time for the start of National EMS Week May 21, the city's fire department has begun using a device that in many cases, will literally take CPR out of fallible human hands.
It is called the Lucas 3 Chest Compression System, which the department recently purchased for a little under $15,000 from Physio-Control Corp. It is the third generation model of a machine that was originally introduced more than a dozen years ago, according to Physio-Control's website.
Fire Chief Mark Stone told the Stow Sentry that fire department staff training on the device, which began May 7, was concluded and the device had gone into service May 16. Fire Capt. Mike Griffin said that as of May 18, there had not been any calls requiring its use.
Griffin said the department hopes to "eventually" purchase more devices. In the meantime, he said, the one the department has now will be carried in the shift commander'ss vehicle at the department's Station 1 at the Darrow Road Safety Center. The vehicle will respond to any call in the city that involves cardiac arrest, said Griffin.
Stone said the Lucas 3 is being used by other area departments, including Akron.
"We're hoping to see some life-changing experiences with this," said Stone.
Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief Paul Moledor said his department has purchased two second-generation Lucas chest compressors over the last two years. He said a third unit is on order and he plans to order two more over the next two years so that all five of the department's ambulances are outfitted.
Moledor said the Lucas apparatus is "hugely important" because the American Heart Association has changed its protocols for advanced cardiac life support protocols and basic cardiac life support.
"What they're finding is people are not doing compressions deep enough or long enough to create a blood pressure," he said.
Moledor said when someone is doing chest compressions, blood pressure is artificially created and when compressions stop, blood pressure drops to zero. The Lucas system is saving lives because it improves the quality of CPR and allows it to continue with fewer interruptions, he said.
"You can only do CPR for about two minutes and then you really start to get fatigued," said Moledor. "We tell everyone to switch in our CPR classes. With the Lucas machine you can do high-quality CPR. That's the term for it: high-quality CPR."
Stone said the biggest advantage of the Lucas 3 is that it provides more consistent CPR than even the best trained paramedic can give.
"It gives you exact compressions every time," he said. "This will allow us to free up a person and it will be proper CPR because when humans do it, you do it to the best of your ability, but you're not perfect."
Stone added, "It works very fast. It will do 102 compressions per minute and the optimum is 100."
'It doesn't get tired'
The Lucas 3 is a horseshoe-shaped device with a structure on the outside of the curve housing a motor, computer and rechargeable battery. It is placed down over the top of the patient's chest, with the end of its arms snapping onto a small backboard under the patient.
A piston with a suction cup on its end, to hold onto the chest when the piston retracts, lowers down to do the compressions. The unit is stored in a hardshell backpack case with straps. Jason Roberts, a Physio-Control sales representative, told a group of about eight or 10 firefighters attending a May 9 training session at Station 1 that the device weighs 17 or 18 pounds by itself and altogether, with the case, a little under 24 pounds.
Once activated, the piston begins moving rapidly up and down, providing consistent compressions. Roberts said the computer measures and "memorizes" the proper resistance level so that it provides the proper force for the individual patient. He said it can also be set to pause periodically so that ventilation can be provided if needed.
In the interest of providing the most immediate and constant CPR necessary to give the patient the best chance of survival, Roberts also said the device can operate while the patient is being moved, including on stairs and at "weird angles," and it is designed to be set up quickly.
"We're trying to minimize the amount of time we're not doing compressions," he said. "Our research shows you should easily get this deployed in under 30 seconds. The reality is, probably around 20 seconds or so."
He added that while the device is being removed from its case, a paramedic could begin performing manual CPR.
Roberts said that while the device can be used on most patients, paramedics may on occasion encounter situations when they will need to perform manual CPR. It will not fit down over patients who are extremely obese and the piston will not reach down far enough for the very smallest patients, such as infants and very young and thin children, said Roberts.
Griffin said the Lucas device goes along with the latest findings by the American Heart Association indicating that "all of the advanced procedures that we can do as paramedics, the medications, the IVs, the defibrillations and whatnot, are much more effective if we're doing high quality and uninterrupted CPR and chest compressions."
The device "frees up a set of hands for us and it provides uninterrupted, high quality chest compressions," said Griffin. "It doesn't get tired, it does the same rate and depth of compressions all the time. So it's a much more exact science and it allows us to get that cardiac profusion up and maintain it at the level so that everything else that we do is much more effective and gives the patient the best opportunity to have a positive outcome."
Editor's note: Cuyahoga Falls News Press Reporter Steve Wiandt contributed to this story.
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