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New Device Automates CPR: Medtronic-Distributed Technology Acts as Chest 'Thumper' for Heart Attack Victims

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Medtronic Inc. is distributing a medical device in the United States that mechanically thumps the chests of heart attack patients as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the Fridley-based company said Monday.

Called the Lucas Chest Compression System, the Swedish-made device has been used in European countries since 2004 and is being tested in Minnesota by Allina Medical Transportation. Medtronic's Physio-Control division, which is based in Washington state, has been the exclusive distribution partner for the device in Europe.

The Lucas system runs on high-pressure air from either a compressed air tank or an air wall outlet in a hospital. The device is indicated for treating adults who have acute circulatory arrest -- meaning they lack spontaneous breathing and pulse -- as well as loss of consciousness.

Mechanical compression allows medical personnel to provide other therapies, the company said. The machine also should provide quality chest compressions for a longer period of time than a human can.

A 1995 study found that fatigue makes it difficult for even well-trained medical personnel to provide more than one minute's worth of effective chest compressions, said Anne Devine, a Medtronic spokeswoman.

"Clearly these devices do much better compressions than humans do," said Dr. Charles Lick, medical director of Allina Medical Transportation in Minneapolis. He noted that effective CPR involves compressing the chest between 1 1/2 to 2 inches 100 times per minute, and said pumping can be slowed or delayed when the task is shared among several medical professionals.

The Allina system is in the process of renting 30 of the devices -- which sell for about $15,000 each -- for use in the health system's ambulances throughout the Twin Cities. Prior to deciding to rent the device, Allina compared it with a competing product called AutoPulse from Massachusetts-based Zoll Medical Corp.

Operators preferred the Lucas system because it weighed less and was easier to store and utilize, Lick said.

Plus, he added, the chest compression provided by the Lucas device comes from a suction cup that may help create negative pressure that pulls blood into the heart. With that "active decompression," Lick said, there could be more good blood in the heart that then can be pushed out with the next compression.

Medtronic's Physio-Control division competes with Zoll for business in the market for automated external defibrillators -- devices that are pressed to the chest to shock a failing heart back into rhythm. Distinct from the surgically implanted cardiac defibrillators that are the top product line at Medtronic, AEDs increasingly can be found in public spaces such as workplaces, shopping malls and airports, where passers-by can use them in an emergency.

In December 2006, Medtronic said it intended to spin-off the Physio-Control business into a separate, publicly traded company. That process was delayed with the company's announcement in January that inspectors with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had found quality systems issues at Medtronic's facility in Redmond, Wash.

Medtronic is working to resolve those FDA issues, none of which involved product problems.

Christopher Snowbeck can be reached at 651-228-5479 or csnowbeck@pioneerpress.com

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