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Salt Lake City “Pit Crew Approach” to Cardiac Arrest Proves Successful

Salt Lake City firefighters credit a new strategy for saving more people from heart attacks.

According to the fire department, firefighters helped patients regain a pulse on 41 percent of their calls in 2013, up from 29 percent in 2011.

That's thanks to a strategy called a "pit crew" response. Each of the four firefighters responding to a call about a heart attack has a specific job to do right away, much like a pit crew gets right to work on a race car, according to a fire department news release. Before, the team called out tasks for each firefighter to perform.

"Another major change for all cardiac arrest responses is to work on the patient where we find them instead of immediately loading the patient into an ambulance and taking them to a hospital while attempting to give them medical attention during transport," said Scott Youngquist, the fire department medical director, in a statement. "It is difficult to perform good CPR on the patient in the back of a speeding ambulance and it puts the first-responders and the driving public at risk of accident or injury."

Firefighters trained for the new strategy several times in 2010, and they -- and their patients -- are seeing the reward. The survival rate for people who suffer cardiac arrests in Salt Lake City improved from 12 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2013, according to the fire department. The national average is 10 percent.

For heart attack victims who have shockable heart rhythms, the survival rate jumped from 30 percent in 2011 to 50 percent in 2013. That national average is 32 percent.

Almost every heart attack survivor was discharged from the hospital last year with "a good neurologic outcome," according to the department.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mikeypanda



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