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ECMO and AutoPulse: Bringing People Back from the Dead; Fact or Fiction?

ECMO and AutoPulse: Bringing People Back from the Dead; Fact or Fiction?

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Bringing People Back from the Dead; Fact or Fiction?

It’s fact! Thanks to the use of two high-tech mechanical devices – ECMO and AutoPulse.

ECMO stands for: Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

This complex machine supports the function of the heart and/or lungs by continuously pumping some of the patient’s blood out of his/her body to an oxygenator [artificial lung]. This is where oxygen is added to the blood and carbon dioxide is removed from the blood. The blood is usually warmed before it is returned to the patient.

AutoPulse is a portable, battery-powered device that performs continuous chest compressions during CPR (CardioPulmonary Resuscitation).

The AutoPulse measures chest size and resistance before it delivers a unique combination of chest and cardiac compressions. The chest compression depth and force varies from patient to patient. The device consists of a LifeBand (an adjustable strap that wraps around the patient’s entire rib cage) that is attached to a half backboard.

The LifeBand rhythmically constricts the patient’s entire rib cage about 80 times per minute. It delivers a higher blood flow than CPR with sternal compressions only. This can be vital to preserving brain and cardiac function.

Doctors at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia reported earlier this year that they had successfully resuscitated three people who had been clinically dead for thirty to sixty minutes, using ECMO and AutoPulse. Reportedly, these patients “survived without further complication”.

Dr. Sam Parnia, the head of intensive care at Stony Brook Hospital in NY, is also doing research with ECMO and AutoPulse. He found that “successful resuscitation came by way of the use of mechanical CPR and ECMO treatment.”

In June of 2013, the American Heart Association published a statement that “high-quality CPR saves lives.” “However, right now, there is a variability in the quality of CPR.” This variability hurts survival.

The statement went on to say, “Each year in the United States, more than a half-million children and adults suffer cardiac arrest, but survival rates vary significantly: 3 percent to 16 percent for arrests outside of hospitals and 12 percent to 22 percent in hospitals.”

Developing ways to improve the quality of CPR, which may include more widespread use of devices like the AutoPulse, will hopefully lead to more successful resuscitations after cardiac arrest.

However, surviving is not the only issue that needs to be considered as this important research moves forward. The quality of life must also be addressed. Is this “life after death” enabling survivors to go “back to normal”? Or is life as they knew it gone forever and filled with complex medical, functional, cognitive, and psychological difficulties?

As this research moves forward, will attorneys begin to see cases of “wrongful life”…with a twist? Would there ever be a “wrongful survival” case? If a family feels their loved one would have been better off dying, would this be a case with merit?

Successful CPR saves lives. It DOES bring people back from the dead. Hopefully, research will continue to establish ways to make this happen, with minimal to no ill effects or deficits for the survivor.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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