Medical staff gets help from CPR device

| Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

The patient lies motionless in sudden cardiac arrest.

Lucas, with his arms outstretched, begins chest compressions — as many as 100 a minute — and his strength never wanes. No matter the situation, his motions are unfaltering.

The second Lund University Cardiac Assist System — known as “LUCAS 2” — can outlast and outperform nearly any human conducting cardiopulmonary resuscitation with its continuous compressions and battery-powered sustainability, said Medical Rescue Team South Authority Chief Todd Pritchard.

“This device takes the place the place of you and it doesn't get tired. It's merely replacing a human and doing a much better job at it,” Pritchard said.

Medical Rescue Team South Authority — which services Whitehall, Baldwin Township, Mt. Lebanon, Green Tree, Dormont and Castle Shannon — is one of the first transport agencies in Allegheny County to purchase the mechanical compression devise, Pritchard said. Funding for the $13,570 Swedish-crafted mechanical CPR equipment came from a grant from Whitehall-based Snee-Reinhardt Charitable Foundation. LUCAS 2 went into operation at MRTSA within the last month.

The goal with any sudden cardiac arrest patient is to maintain a steady supply of oxygen to the heart and brain, which can be achieved through CPR, as they work to restore “return of spontaneous circulation” as soon as possible, MRTSA staffers said. A person's likelihood of surviving sudden cardiac arrest is dependent on “high-quality, uninterrupted CPR.”

A person who performs CPR is, at best, 85 percent effective in the first two minutes of compressions, according to a study conducted through the American Heart Association. After those two minutes, though, a person's effectiveness in performing the compressions drops.

A mechanical continuous compression device, such as the “LUCAS 2,” is meant to provide the same quality of compressions every time, MRTSA staffers said.

MRTSA previously had another device that was not as effective, assistant Chief John Moses said.

The “LUCAS 2” can be used for nearly all patients in sudden cardiac arrest. The battery lasts up to an hour, Pritchard said.

A board is simply placed under the person, the arms strapped around them, and, with the flip of a switch the machine begins to pump furiously.

“It's a good balance,” paramedic Jesse Siefert said of the force that the “LUCAS 2” uses. “When this machine is on, you can actually feel a pulse.”

“These are highly effective compressions without interruptions,” Pritchard added.

The device was tested by MRTSA staff for about three months in the spring, where it was used about 10 times. Based on staff input, it was determined the “LUCAS 2” must be purchased, Pritchard said.

“Even those who were skeptical about it at first wanted it after they used it,” he said.

MRTSA gets between 80 and 100 calls a year for sudden cardiac arrests.

Within its first several weeks on the job, “LUCAS 2” already has been used multiple times.

Only 90 minutes after opening the box and beginning to charge the batteries for “Lucas 2,” it became apparent how vital this device would be for MRTSA staff and patients, when the first call for a sudden cardiac arrest came in and the device was put into action.

“LUCAS 2” is carried in the MRTSA supervisor's vehicle, which is sent to all cardiac arrest calls. The emergency medical service is considering the purchase of a second device in 2013, Pritchard said.

The device allows for improved productivity and use of manpower for paramedics when on a call.

Still, not everyone has access to a mechanical chest compression system. And of the 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests that occur in the nation annually, 88 percent happen in the home, according to 2011 statistics from the American Heart Association.

So, MRTSA staffers urge residents to learn CPR.

For more information on CPR classes offered by MRTSA, visit, or call 412-343-5111.

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or

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