Md. fire dept. credits new CPR method with saving more lives

Max Smith,

WASHINGTON – A change to CPR being implemented in the D.C. area is already saving lives.

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department responded in March to 24 calls for people who had collapsed and needed to be revived after a sudden cardiac arrest. Eleven of those people were saved.

In January, the department responded to the same number of sudden cardiac arrests but only four people were saved.

Division Chief Keith Swindle credits the vast improvement to the department’s new method of CPR for adults who suddenly collapse.

Known as “continuous compression,” the method does not use the traditional mouth- to-mouth, and instead focuses on 100 chest compressions per minute to keep blood flowing to vital organs, including the brain.

The newer method gives the patient a better opportunity to respond to a shock from a defibrillator if it is needed, Swindle says.

All EMTs and paramedics in Maryland have to be trained in the new method by July as part of new state protocols, but nearly all of the training is already done in Anne Arundel County.

“Howard County and ourselves have been given an exception to begin this new protocol prior to July 1, and it truly is making a difference here in Anne Arundel County,” Swindle says.

The county is also installing equipment in 23 ambulances that can continue compressions mechanically while a patient is being taken to the hospital.

The continuous compression method is being introduced in more EMS departments across the country, after the American Heart Association recommended a new focus on compressions a few years ago.

Previously, the association had taught the “ABCs” for airway, breathing and compression. Now, it has been flipped to “CAB,” reflecting the new order of importance for those trying to help someone who has stopped breathing.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, is collaborating on a study of the impacts of the continuous compression method, as opposed to traditional CPR.

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