PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- On December 1, new protocols went into effect, changing the way Emergency Medical Service providers work on patients suffering from cardiac arrest.
Since the change seven months ago, it's already helping to save more lives.
The protocol now encourages EMTs to work on a patient at the scene as opposed to immediately transporting. What that means is instead of moving the patient into the back of an ambulance, then doing CPR in a moving vehicle, the patient doesn't move and is therefore getting constant CPR.
Dr. Matthew Sholl, the state EMS Medical Director, says science has shown that giving immediate and constant CPR and defibrillation is what saves lives. Portland alone says with the new protocol, the survival rate for their cardiac arrest patients is three times higher now than in 2010 and 2011. Other cities, like Auburn, agree it's working.
Just at the start of the month, crews with the Auburn Fire Department responded to a man having a seizure in the Auburn Mall. When they arrived, they realized he was in cardiac arrest and immediately started chest compressions. He was shocked twice while still at the mall, which is when his heart started beating on its own again, then he was transported to the hospital for further treatment.
On the opposite side of this new protocol, paramedics are now able to call a death on-scene, without transporting to the hospital. The American Heart Association has research to show that after 20 minutes of solid CPR, if there is still no heart beat, efforts to resuscitate are no longer working. For a family, that could mean the body stays right where it dropped, and never goes to the hospital.
According to the state EMS coordinator, Jay Bradshaw, every minute someone is in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases by 10%, making this new protocol key in rural Maine where your ambulance could take up to 15 minutes, sometimes, even longer to show up. It's also another reason you should call an ambulance the second you feel you might be having a heart attack.