CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County emergency officials hope a new way of treating heart attacks will save lives.
From now on, medics in Kanawha County who respond to patients in cardiac arrest will perform CPR for at least 20 minutes before transporting the patient to a hospital, said Dr. John Turley, medical director for the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority.
"Historically the way [cardiac arrest] patients were handled is, quickly loaded into the ambulance and hurried to hospital as fast as we could get there, and [medics] attempted to do CPR in the back of the ambulance," Turley said.
But research has shown that in the rush to get patients to the hospital, medics in ambulances were not doing effective CPR, Turley said.
Medics transporting patients also were losing valuable time that instead could be used for CPR, Turley said. During cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating, causing the loss of blood flow to the body, minutes are critical, he said.
Survival rates for cardiac arrest are low -- around 5 percent nationwide, Turley said. However, that survival rate increases to 12 percent when CPR is administered at the scene for at least 20 minutes, he said.
Ambulance officials plan to announce the procedure change at a news conference Tuesday, but the change went into effect Monday, Turley said.
"We're doing an announcement because it seems counterintuitive, not going to the hospital as soon as possible," Turley said. "But spending more time onsite doing the CPR, the patient has a better chance of long-term survival."