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Portable CPR Device Saves Lives


Cardiac arrest when a person's heart suddenly stops beating is a major health problem across the globe. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation, or CPR, can revive victims, but it is often performed improperly or ineffectively. As Amy Katz reports, a new device promises to do the job better.

When someone's heart stops beating, the first thing doctors and paramedics do is start chest compressions pushing repeatedly on the patient's chest to keep blood flowing through the body. It works, but not perfectly. Chest compression normally restores only about 40 percent of blood flow to the brain and only 20 percent of blood flow to the heart.

The result in many cases is brain damage, according to Dr. Paul Pepe. "We're probably not compressing hard enough. We're probably not compressing fast enough and we're probably interrupting to give breaths to often to be effective, or as effective as it could be."

Now, there is a different solution. A new, portable chest compressing machine. It calculates a person's shape and size to determine exactly how much pressure needs to be applied and how fast the compressions need to be done.

The new device has many fans, including Captain Peter Howes, a San Francisco firefighter. "Having used this device, I'm a true believer. It's a fantastic benefit to the field."

Last year, Caralee Weich went into cardiac arrest on a San Francisco street. She was treated with the new device for most of the 30 minutes her heart was stopped. She says the machine kept her blood flowing and allowed the medication she was given to circulate properly. "I feel very passionate about this machine and believe that it not only saved my life, but allowed me to have a complete recovery."

Preliminary studies suggest patients who were treated with the portable chest compressor were 35 percent more likely than those given manual compressions to arrive at the hospital emergency room with a beating heart.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved several models of the machine. But, the American Heart Association is calling for more studies to be done to make sure it not only increases blood flow, but also really does result in a full recovery for more patients.

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