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Metro Newsroom 

New Ventilation Technique to Save Lives

Thursday March 29, 2007

More EMS responders able to re-establish breathing for cardiac-arrest patients

Cardiac-arrest patients in Louisville will have a better chance of survival thanks to the skilled use of a small plastic tube and a tiny balloon. Louisville Metro EMS has trained its emergency medical technicians and paramedics in the use of the King Airway, a new medical device used to re-establish breathing when time is critical.

Using the new device, Louisville Metro EMS will have more than 2½ times the previous number of first responders in the field with the skills and capability to re-establish breathing in cardiac-arrest situations.

“Time is so crucial in these situations and now providing all of our responders with the skills to more effectively ventilate a patient will save lives,” said Dr. Neal Richmond, chief executive of Louisville Metro EMS. “Raising the skill levels of our providers will raise our level of patient care.”

Richmond said the agency makes about three emergency runs for cardiac-arrest patients each day.

The new airway device is designed to be inserted in the patient’s throat with minimal trauma. When the device is in place, a small balloon inflates to block the esophagus and isolate the trachea. This ensures air passes through the trachea and into the lungs to facilitate breathing.

“Getting oxygen to the lungs is the number one component of resuscitation,” Richmond said. “The bottom line is you can shock a patient over and over and use all the medicines in the world, but without oxygen you just won’t get far.”

Louisville Metro EMS has trained its full complement of EMTs and paramedics in the use of the new airway device and has incorporated the procedure into the training for all new hires. EMTs will use the device to more effectively ventilate patients who are in cardiac arrest and not breathing. Paramedics may also use it as a secondary “rescue” device for other complicated respiratory failure when conditions make it difficult to perform the more highly technical intubation procedure.

EMS officials have coordinated with all area hospitals so that emergency-room physicians are prepared to receive patients with the device. Richmond said other EMS services in the region are working with Louisville to learn how best to introduce use of the new airway device.