Dr. Keith Lurie remembers when he met a male patient 23 years ago who was resuscitated not through traditional CPR, but with a toilet plunger on his chest.
The experience motivated Lurie to look for a better way of performing CPR. His company, Roseville-based Advanced Circulatory Systems, came up with the ResQPump, which is sold in Europe but not in the U.S.
The company believes a new study, funded in part by a National Institutes of Health grant, may move the device forward. Results released Sunday showed that cardiac arrest patients who were treated with the ResQPump, along with a complementary device, had a 53 percent better chance of surviving than those who received standard CPR.
The pump, a hand-held device with a suction cup on the bottom, is placed on the patient's chest before responders perform chest compressions. Unlike standard hand compressions, the device tells responders how much force they need to use and gives them the ability to pull the chest back up, allowing more blood to flow to the brain and heart.
Meanwhile, the company's complementary device, called the ResQPOD is placed over a mask or tube and prevents unnecessary air from entering the chest during CPR. The ResQPOD is approved in the U.S. and sells for $90.
Local doctors involved with the study say the findings are important and could lead to a new approach to CPR. The study involved 2,470 cardiac arrest patients from February 2005 to July 2009.
If patients receive CPR incorrectly it can be a death sentence, the doctors said, and the pump is much easier to learn.
The company said the product is for emergency responders, but it hopes to one day develop a product for the everyday person.
"I think we are still in the prehistoric ages with cardiac arrest," said Lurie, who is the company's chief medical officer. "Like the cave man, we have been using our hands and no tools."
The St. Paul Fire Department, which participated in the study, called the device promising.
"There are a lot of things that get tried, and they sound really good until they are put to use," said Bob Pitts, EMS coordinator. "This is one of them where the results show that it's a piece of equipment that can make a difference."
The pump is sold abroad, but it has not received U.S. regulatory approval. The Food and Drug Administration called off experiments with the device in 1993 because of concerns that patients were participating in the study without informed consent.
The company continued to study it in Europe, then raised money to start U.S. testing in 2005. The pump sells for $300 in Europe.
Some hospitals in the area use another automated device called the Lucas 2 Chest Compression System, an automated CPR machine that is distributed by a subsidiary of Fridley-based Medtronic Inc.
Dr. R.J. Frascone, one of the Advanced Circulatory study's investigators, said he believes ResQPump can complement Lucas, for example in situations where co-workers or non-emergency personnel have to resuscitate a patient before paramedics arrive.
"This is astounding," said Frascone, medical director for Regions Hospital Emergency Medical Services regarding ResQPump's impact on cardiac arrest treatment. "This is the biggest advancement since the defibrillator."