Cabarrus EMS to begin cooling hearts en route to hospital

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beginning on Valentine’s Day, hearts in Cabarrus County will receive a new kind of treatment when Cabarrus County Emergency Medical Services implements a new medical protocol to cool the hearts of cardiac arrest patients before reaching the hospital.
Called therapeutic hypothermia, Cabarrus County will become the fifth EMS system in North Carolina to provide this progressive medical protocol, which provides advanced care to the victims of cardiac arrest. Currently, about 150 of the 24,000 EMS agencies in the United States perform this procedure.
While up to 18 percent of patients regain a pulse during resuscitation attempts, only 3 percent survive to hospital discharge. EMS agencies that have implemented the therapeutic hypothermia protocol have experienced up to a fourfold increase in survival to hospital discharge.
The therapeutic hypothermia protocol is endorsed by the American Heart Association and approved by the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services.
The protocol will be used electively in Cabarrus County with cardiac arrest patients who regain a pulse during treatment. After regaining a pulse through CPR, paramedics will administer chilled saline intravenously and place ice packs at strategic locations on the body in an effort to cool the heart while en route to the hospital. Skilled monitoring and medication to reduce shivering also will be administered.
This protocol is an effective tool for increasing the chance of survival for cardiac arrest victims. However, it depends on the overall system of care. First responders with fire and rescue agencies play a critical role with the performance of high-quality and early CPR, while hospitals offer the continuance of therapeutic hypothermia initiated in the field when needed.
“For this protocol to work, effective CPR is necessary before EMS arrives,” said Alan Thompson, assistant director of Cabarrus County EMS. Thompson encourages every adult to be trained in CPR to increase the survival rate of family members, friends, coworkers and others.
The implementation of the therapeutic hypothermia protocol was made possible through the efforts of Dr. Craig Corey, consultant Mike Clumpner, Carolinas Medical Center-Northeast and the Cabarrus County EMS training staff.