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N.Y. Paramedics Get the EZ-IO

NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- The Town of Tonawanda Police Department Paramedics have just gotten their hands on some new technology that could save your life.

Emergency patients often have vein collapse as a result of going into shock, making it difficult to start an intravenous line, or IV, to deliver life-saving fluids or medications, said Carla Bevilacqua, supervisor of the emergency medical unit. But by using a new machine called the EZ-IO, paramedics can deliver fluids into the blood stream quickly and effectively.

"We just finished training on the EZ-IO," Bevilacqua said. "It actually drills into the bone to gain vascular access for patients who, due to trauma or illness, have vein collapse."

The device drills a needle through a bone, usually the tibia, to give paramedics access to bone marrow in intraosseous space. Using the EZ-IO, a paramedic can set up an intraosseous, or IO, line in seconds, saving valuable time, said Tom Scime, acting operations manager for the town paramedics.

"It sounds sort of barbaric, but it can save someone's life," Scime said. "When it's done to them, a person is going to be unconscious and near death."

The IO lines have been manually placed in children, whose bones are much softer. In adults, whose bones have hardened substantially, a drill like the EZ-IO is necessary to gain entry. The American Heart Association recently announced guidelines for advanced cardiac life support that recommend IO as the first alternative to running an IV in adult cardiac arrest patients, and the Town of Tonawanda is one of the first units in the state to have the technology, Scime said.

An EZ-IO is good for around 6,000 uses, and the EMS unit has a practice model and three others for field use, Scime said.

"I m sure I'll be long gone before they're used up," Scime joked.

The unit also has a device called a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which presents an alternative to running a breathing tube for patients with breathing problems.

"It's basically a mask with a valve system to regulate the flow," Scime said. "It's not invasive and provides a high rate of oxygen flow. There's constant pressure whether the patient is inhaling or exhaling to move fluid out of the lung space."

The device is similar to units used for sleep apnea, but runs off a portable oxygen tank that paramedic and police vehicles have installed. The CPAP can only be used on patients who are still breathing on their own, Bevilacqua said.

"It's hard to get people to put it on because it has a tight, restrictive fit," Scime said. "But once we get it on, people don't want to take it off."

The CPAP is used on patients with extreme breathing complications, resulting from conditions ranging from congestive heart failure to asthma.

The CPAP kits cost around $600 and an EZ-IO machine costs $475, but the town's taxpayers won't be footing the bill for the new gear.

The new equipment was purchased through the James V. Ryan Paramedic Foundation, established in 1985 to honor the town supervisor who spearheaded the effort to establish the paramedic program. The foundation purchases equipment using donations and has allowed the town s paramedics to stay on the cutting-edge of technological improvements in the field, Scime said.

"We have a small group of quality people here, and that allows us to be progressive," Scime said. "It's nice to be a trendsetter in the area.

Click here for more from JEMS on EZ-IO and CPAP

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