British Columbia

B.C. study aims to triple survival rate of cardiac arrest patients

A study done by UBC and BCEHS will examine how effective new CPR technologies will be to increase rates of survival of cardiac arrest patients.

Study will look at how effective new technologies are in saving cardiac arrest patients

Emergency responders show a Lukas 2 machine, which gives patients CPR while paramedics transport them to the hospital. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

When Genya Kaplun suffered a cardiac arrest at his home in the West End, it took doctors three and a half hours of CPR to save him. Under normal circumstances, he would have been pronounced dead at his house.

"They tried to revive me and they couldn't," he said. "I was just lucky the emergency physician said 'No! Bring him in.'"

A scar on the chest of Genya Kaplun from the Lucas 2 Machine reminds him of his cardiac arrest. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

ER doctors brought Kaplun back to life using a groundbreaking medical treatment known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation-cardio pulminary resuscitation, or ECMO-CPR, that bypassed his cardiac arrest.

Only a few people have been saved by the same technology — but a new study being conducted by St. Paul's Hospital and B.C. Emergency Health Services is looking to prove just how effective it can be.

"It's a paradigm shift in how we treat cardiac arrests," said Dr. William Dick, vice president of medical programs at BCEHS, adding that only 14 per cent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients survive using current treatments.

"We think we can probably triple the rate of survival in the right patients with this technology."

Getting from A to B

According to Dick, the goal of the study is to make ECMO-CPR treatment the new norm. But getting patients to the hospital is extremely difficult, because CPR must constantly be provided en route to the hospital.

"It's literally almost impossible to safely and effectively transport a person in cardiac arrest in a moving ambulance or down a set of stairs, and do effective, manual CPR," said Dick.

Dr. William Dick thinks ECMO therapy signifies a paradigm shift for cardiac arrest treatment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

To solve this problem, five local ground ambulances will now be equipped with the Lucas 2 machine — a mechanical device that is strapped to patients to give them CPR while paramedics transport them to the hospital.

Although other hospitals in Canada have ECMO CPR,  the emergency room at St. Paul's is the first and only one in Canada outfitted with ECMO therapy, according to Dick.

With files from Rafferty Baker