During National EMS Week, May 18-24, 2008, the Wake County Emergency Medical System (EMS) will celebrate achievements that show dramatic strides in cardiac arrest care. Recently completed data from 2007 shows that Wake’s EMS System successfully resuscitated 49 people who experienced cardiac arrest – a life-threatening condition in which the heart stops beating effectively.
These accomplishments will be celebrated at the Cardiac Arrest Save Ceremony, on Wednesday, May 21, 2008, at 7 p.m., at the Fletcher Opera Theater, 2 E. South St., Raleigh. Members of the media are invited to attend as Wake County emergency responders and 2007 cardiac arrest survivors meet to celebrate the achievements of the Cardiac Saves program and the efforts of the emergency medical care system.
Changes in the way local emergency responders manage cardiac arrest patients have yielded significant gains in the number of survivors. In April 2005, the Wake County EMS System began practicing Constant Compression Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), or CPR with a focus on preventing interruptions in chest compressions. Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) remain a vital component of cardiac arrest survival. Finally, the EMS System, in partnership with Rex Healthcare and WakeMed Health and Hospitals, has been using induced hypothermia to improve neurological outcomes for cardiac arrest patients for more than a year.
Key elements of cardiac arrest resuscitation are early provision of cardiac compressions and the timely response of a defibrillator that can shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. The EMS System relies on firefighter first-response agencies across Wake County to provide these life-saving interventions; more than half of the cardiac arrests occur in the City of Raleigh, with the remaining half divided among more than 20 fire departments in Wake County. Incredibly, in the City of Raleigh, 49 percent of victims of ventricular fibrillation survive to hospital discharge, better than 2.5 times the national average.
“Many ingredients go into this success here in Wake County,” said Wake County EMS Chief Skip Kirkwood. “The first link in the chain is community awareness, which is bystander and family CPR and the use of automatic defibrillators, or AEDs. We benefit from the professionalism of our 911 Emergency Medical Dispatchers, who provide care instructions and coordinating emergency response.
“Our local firefighters have also done an outstanding job of responding quickly and providing CPR and defibrillation, the cornerstones of successful cardiac arrest resuscitation. Our Paramedics provide advanced medical care as they manage the patient on scene and to the hospital. And our partners in the hospital systems continue outstanding care and see the patients through to their discharge.”
A large national study published in the March 12, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association indicates a rate of five percent survival in ventricular fibrillation patients before the 2005 changes to a rate of 18 percent after the changes.
Wake County’s overall rate before the changes was eight percent, compared to the national study at two percent. Post-change rates for Wake County in 2007 were 19 percent for all cardiac arrest types versus five percent in the national study.
Photographs by Wake EMS Photo Unit:
Mike Legeros andLee Wilson