TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - When minutes could mean the difference between life and death, Tucson Fire Department medics are now working to slow things down. The department is rolling out new guidelines for treating cardiac arrest by bringing the hospital to the patient.
“One thing that might appear weird to the general public is that a lot of times, we [will] work a cardiac arrest on scene,” said Julian Herrera, the EMS captain for TFD. “One thing that doctors really want to emphasize is that effective CPR, effective cardiac arrest management, needs to be done without any gap that’s needed for transport. When we are in the back of an ambulance, it’s very unstable, the quality of CPR goes down significantly.”
Paramedics receive hundreds of medical calls each month. Herrera estimates about 20 to 40 of those are for cardiac arrest.
First responders will now remain on scene, attempting life-saving measures until circulation returns to the cardiac arrest patient.
"It could be 20 mins, it could be 10 or 15, it really depends on the situation,” Herrera said.
He believes there's a misconception about the quality of care paramedics are able to provide.
“The general knowledge that people have is ‘We want to get our loved ones to the hospital as quickly as possible,’” said Herrera. “What all the studies are showing is that time to take them to the hospital is having a detrimental effect.”
"Pretty much anything we would do in the emergency department, they are equipped to do on scene,” said Dr. Amber Rice, an emergency physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of Arizona.
Rice said, when coupled with providing quality chest compressions and all interventions possible, staying on scene saves lives.
"In many systems, it has doubled their survival from cardiac arrest by being able to institute all of those things,” she said.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming more than 300,000 lives every year.
More than 600 emergency medical workers in Tucson will be following the new guidelines by mid-March.