New Cardio Monitors a ‘Lifesaver’ for PA’s Allegheny, Westmoreland EMS Outfits

The photo shows the hood of an orange ambulance.
Photo/Adam Mason

By Joe Napsha

Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.


For an 18-year-old man who suffered a heart attack, the use of a new remote cardiac monitor/defibrillator by Plum first responders proved to be a lifesaver.

EMS personnel were providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but the patient’s heart had stopped, said Brian Maloney, director of operations for Plum EMS.

The patient was connected to the remote cardiac monitor/defibrillator, and his heart received a shock that revived the heartbeat, Maloney said Tuesday at AHN Forbes Hospital. All the while, the machine was transmitting vital information to the Monroeville hospital, where the patient went directly into the cardiac catheterization lab, Maloney said.

Plum EMS was among seven ambulance services in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to receive some of the 36 new Zoll remote cardiac monitors/defibrillators the AHN Forbes Hospital Foundation purchased, each at cost of about $31,000.

“These are critically important to push the first incidence of care closer to our patients in their homes when they have an acute life-threatening cardiac problem,” said Dr. Stephen Bailey, cardiothoracic surgeon and co-chair of AHN’s Cardiovascular Institute.

The cardiac monitors, transmitting data from a 12-lead electrocardiogram connected to the patient, deliver highly accurate information to the EMS teams and the medical personnel at the hospital, which ultimately guide the appropriate care, “saving time and ultimately making a critical difference in the outcome of patients,” Bailey said. In heart attack cases, the interpretation and transmission of this data allows the cardiac catheterization lab to begin mobilizing its resources before the ambulance arrives.

“It makes a tremendous impact. We’re using it 98% of the time,” said Ed Grant, operations director for the Penn Township Ambulance Association.

While the 2008 Phillips monitors performed similar functions as the new Zoll monitors, Andrew “Rocky” Rzodkiewicz, assistant EMS director for the Irwin Volunteer Fire Department Ambulance, said the four new monitors, with all of their capabilities, “run a little faster and run a little smoother.”

The technology in the new cardiac monitors gives health care providers audio and visual feedback on compression rates and depth as they perform CPR, and this information can improve survival rates.

“These new ones are much faster and follow the latest technology,” said Shane Spielvogle, executive director of North Huntingdon EMS, which received four new cardiac monitors/defibrillators. The organization has had the new monitors for about a week.

The former cardiac monitors were at “the end of their life,” said Randy Highlands, director of operations for Jeannette EMS. The service could no longer get parts for the old monitors, which were heavier than the newer models, Highlands said.

Emergency medical services in Monroeville and Braddock also received new monitors.

Jeannette EMS will put the new monitors into service after they are trained to use them, said Highlands, who added he was grateful to get the four new cardiac monitors from Forbes Hospital.

“We’re a small service, and the ($31,000 price tag) a tough nut to crack,” he said.


Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter.

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