CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Rather than being transported immediately to a hospital, cardiac arrest patients in Kanawha County now will receive CPR for at least 20 minutes on the scene.
A new countywide protocol requires medics who respond to such patients to perform CPR that long before transporting them to the nearest hospital, said Dr. John Turley, medical director of the Kanawha County Emergency Ambulance Authority.
The protocol has been in the planning stages for about six months, Turley said. It has been phased in over the last few weeks and will go into full effect this week.
The authority held a press conference Tuesday to inform the public.
"We've read all these studies showing the effectiveness," Turley said.
"There have been nationwide studies for 10 years that a patient has a better chance of survival if CPR is performed on site with uninterrupted chest compressions.
"Traditionally, the practice has been to load the cardiac arrest patient into the ambulance and get to the closest hospital as soon as we can.
"It's impossible to perform effective CPR while moving; the patient needs to be stable and with more than one provider. The average person wears out after two minutes."
Medics were losing valuable time on transport that could have been used to perform effective CPR, Turley said.
The new protocol, called "20 minutes for life," is designed to improve the chances for the return of spontaneous circulation in the patient and for neurological survivability.
"We usually have between 130 and 140 cardiac arrests per year in Kanawha County. Survival rates have never been good," Turley said.
"We want them to not just be alive, but at the end of CPR, to be mentally intact. That's only about 5 percent of them."
With the use of automatic defibrillators and CPR performed on the scene, survival rates have increased to about 12 percent. The national goal is 15 percent.