One out of every three — 34% — of the people who suffered treatable cardiac arrest in Wake County in 2006 survived to return home from the hospital, up from 19% in 2004 and 28% in 2005, according to Wake County EMS system data.
Based on the latest national data, that places Wake County among the “top 3” service areas in the United States for recovery from “survivable” cardiac arrests. Nationally, the average survival rate is 17%.
“No one wants to have a heart attack anywhere, anytime, but because Wake County’s paramedics, firefighters, emergency medical dispatchers and receiving hospitals are better prepared than most to deal with cardiac arrest, victims have a higher probability of successful resuscitation in Wake County than most places in the U.S.,” said Dr. Brent Myers, medical director of the Wake County EMS System.
Wake County paramedics and firefighter “first responders” evaluate heart rhythms in people suffering cardiac arrest, a condition in which heartbeat and breathing stop. Of the 450 full-arrest cases in Wake County last year, some 100 victims had heart rhythms that indicated a reasonable chance of response to rapid treatment, according to EMS medical experts. Paramedics, firefighters (and more than a few co-workers, passers-by and family members) kept those victims alive to reach the hospital. Combined with the work of hospital-based medical teams, the result was successful treatment and release of 34% of the approximately 100 cardiac arrest victims.
Wake County’s 2006 performance is comparable to that of the Seattle/King County, Washington, EMS system, long regarded as an industry leader. According to a 2004 peer-reviewed research study, the Seattle area achieved a resuscitation rate of 30%. According to a USA Today report, Seattle’s cardiac-arrest survival rate exceeds 40%, with Boston, Mass., and Wake County not far behind. Wake County EMS representatives believe that several improvements in emergency cardiac care over the last 24 months help explain cardiac-arrest survivability in Wake County:
Bystander CPR awareness and early defibrillation by firefighters and others with access to automatic external defibrillators (AEDs).
New American Heart Association CPR guidelines (adopted by Wake County in April 2005), which call for more constant CPR chest compressions. Advanced care was streamlined to focus on good CPR and early defibrillation.
Application of new technology, like the “Res-Q-Pod,” which acts as an air-pressure regulator for the chest to improve blood circulation during CPR, which Wake County paramedics began using in 2006.
Streamlining of Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center dispatch procedures which save an average of one minute, 16 seconds on initial EMS dispatch to cardiac arrest patients, a time savings that can mean the difference between life and death.
“Wake County’s EMS system continues to be a success story,” said Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble, who chairs the Board of Commissioners’ Public Safety Committee. “It has taken a lot of work to improve delivery of quality emergency medical care, both in efficiency and effectiveness, and we won’t rest on our laurels.”
“We can do even better,” said Board of Commissioners Chairman Tony Gurley. “As more people learn CPR, as we place more AEDs more strategically in the community, and as our EMS system continues to improve, more cardiac-arrest victims will walk out through those hospital doors.”