Feb. 6--The data proves it.
If you're going to have a heart attack anywhere in the United States, you're almost best off having it in Rock or Walworth county, emergency room doctors say.
The area's emergency medical personnel and first responders, such as police officers and sheriff's deputies, for nearly three years have been learning a relatively new form of CPR.
Since its introduction in early 2004, survival rates have tripled for people in cardiac arrest who had a "shockable" or quivering heart rhythm.
It's called cardiocerebral resuscitation, or CCR, and it's so easy that doctors say anyone can do it if they see someone collapse.
A better way
The new method works better than traditional CPR, experts say.
Michael Kellum, Mercy-Walworth Hospital and Medical Center director, along with other hospital medical directors in the two counties have worked to bring CCR to the area because the survival rates with traditional CPR are "horrible, and they haven't changed," Kellum said.
Although CCR is not yet endorsed by the American Heart Association because of its newness, Kellum said it's the "better way to do it."
CCR has saved the lives of dozens of local people since early 2004, when it was introduced in Delavan and started to filter out to other rescue squads and police departments in the area.
CCR involves no mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing, as used in traditional CPR. Instead, it's continuous chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute.
The idea is to keep the heart beating by pressing repeatedly on the chest and moving the stored oxygen in the blood to vital parts of the body, particularly the brain.
Cardiac patients differ from respiratory arrest patients in that their heart stops beating even thought their blood still has normal amounts of oxygen, explained Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, director of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center, where CCR was developed.
Ewy, a professor and chief of cardiology at the university, said patients suffering from respiratory arrest, such as near-drowning or choking victims, will have used up the oxygen in their blood and still require rescue breathing from traditional CPR.
"In cardiac arrest, when you arrest, arterial blood oxygenation is perfectly normal," Ewy said. "In respiratory arrest, because you're not breathing and your heart is pumping, the body is using up the oxygen in the blood. When blood pressure gets too low, the heart stops. It's totally different."
Repeated chest compressions can actually move the lungs enough so oxygen is inhaled, Kellum said. Cardiac patients often will gasp for breath, which is a good sign, but not a sign to stop CCR, Ewy said.
"When a lay person or early responders breath for them, it's a huge cost," Kellum said. "The brain probably doesn't last more than eight seconds without blood supply."
Because CCR is relatively new and only a few places in the United States are using it regularly, there's no broad statistical data available.
But Kellum said he amazed by what he's found locally.
Kellum studied 92 patients who between 2001 and 2003 went into cardiac arrest, had "shockable" heart rhythms and were treated with traditional CPR.
Of the 92 patients, 18 were saved and 74 died using traditional CPR-a survival rate of 19.6 percent.
Between 2004 and early 2005, when emergency medical personnel were using CCR, the percentage of lives saved rose three-fold.
In that period, there were 33 "shockable" patients. Nineteen patients lived because of the new method, a survival rate of 57.6 percent. Even though there were fewer victims, more survived, Kellum said.
After hearing of the successes in southern Wisconsin, Ewy was delighted.
"Those results correspond with the results we had in our animal (testing) labs," Ewy said. "We found the same sort of thing here.
"To me, this is a lifelong work at something that is going to make a huge difference in the world."