Monday, March 11, 2013

CPR and beyond.

ECMO sounds like a drain cleaner sold by dubious door-to-door salespeople, but in fact it's an acronym for a machine that has been described as a "game changer" when it comes to heart resuscitation after a heart attack.

Extra Corporeal Membrane Transfer is the high highfaluting name of the machine, but in effect what it does is remove blood from a patients body, then remove the accumulated Carbon Dioxide from the blood, add in life-restoring Oxygen and then return the blood to the body. According to the report I read in the Australian Newspaper, the ECMO machine is widely available in SE Asia where it has been reported to have saved lives up to 7 hours after the patient was supposed to have "died"!

According to Dr Parnia who is releasing a book called "The Lazarus Effect", survival rates after a heart attack in America run at about 25 to 30% when simply CPR is used: whereas where the ECMO is used in Asia, then the survival rates run at about 70%, a result which the scientists would call "clinically significant"!

An ECMO machine is similar to the heart lung machines that are used in open heart surgery, but simplified and adapted for mobility purposes. According to Dr Parnia, these machines are "quick to fit, small enough to fit in an ambulance and relatively cheap". Although in the context of escalating health costs and the continuous challenge of where to allocate the Health Care $$'s, relative is a relative word!!

What ECMO does do is put into the spotlight is our current attitude of what works best,  and question what we mean by "best practice". For the general community - read you and me - we know that CPR is far from perfect, but not enough of us even know simple CPR despite the fact that it has been shown to save lives when used by lay people who have been taught the basic technique. CPR needs to be taught in school and refreshed in the community on a regular basis. As for ECMO, I have no doubt that in the hear future our Ambulances must be fitted with these advanced, simple to use machines, and we don't have to wait for Governments to pay for them. If you think that your "mid-life" spouse is worth saving for "old age", then why not form a local fund-raising group and talk with your Emergency Services to see if they can advance and adapt. Now there's a challenge for you!
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Anonymous said...

Just how expensive are these life saving machines?

Stephen said...

Training Aid Australia offer a really good FREE CPR Course online,