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Thursday, September 8, 2011

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Health News - Advances In Treating & Preventing Cardiac Arrest (...Or, "A Story With A Heart!")

One of the better experiences to come from this labor of love—blogging—is that, despite the many socioeconomic ills and levels of political polarization ongoing in America, I can often bring you tidbits of hope in the sea or man’s-inhumanity-to man.
This is actually a tale of two happenstances: the first being an illustration of what happens when people can ignore differences and unite to help someone in need, and the second marking recent advances in heart attack treatment and prevention.
Back in January of this year in the small town of Goodhue, Minnesota, Howard Snitzer walked out of a local grocery store…and collapsed on the sidewalk outside. He was suffering a “massive heart attack” according to medical officials familiar with the story. Both Mr. Snitzer’s life and the story could have ended right then and there, were it not for Candice Cane, another customer in the store at the time of Snitzer’s collapse. She began to immediately administer CPR. It was at this point that an auto mechanic from across the street saw what was happening and walked over to lend assistance. When Cane became exhausted with her attempts to keep the man alive, the mechanic began to take over. When he became too tired to continue the efforts, another stranger began to take over the heart messaging technique. And then another took over after that. In all, some 20 local strangers lined up waiting to administer CPR to Snitzer, keeping him alive for 96 minutes, and long enough for emergency first responders to arrive and begin making further, more involved attempts to bring him back. He would successfully regain consciousness days later in the hospital (LA Times, 03/04/2011 - "CPR for 96 minutes...").
Just as amazing as this story was, equally as amazing was that assisting Mr. Snitzer’s revival was the new use of an existing technology.
After first responders had arrived on the unbelievable scene via medical helicopter, among them was a flight nurse who had been trained in the use of capnography. Capnography, a relative old technology, measures how much carbon dioxide is expended with each breath. It’s a procedure that helps doctors and medical personnel determine whether a patient is hyperventilating, having an asthma attack, or a heart attack. It also helps them decide—in this case—determine whether CPR is working.
During attempts to resuscitate Snitzer, his carbon dioxide levels suggested that blood was flowing to vital organs (e.g., his heart and brain), and the flight nurse thought Snitzer still had a chance. While some emergency responders involved thought the case was a lost cause, others, including Dr. Roger White, the Mayo Clinic-based anesthesiologist who came up with the solution to get Snitzer's heart beating normally again did not want to waste the valiant efforts of the strangers who worked so hard to give Snitzer a fighting chance. According to White,

...before the use of capnography, the only way of assessing blood flow to vital organs was by feeling for a pulse or by looking for dilated pupils. He says those methods are very crude and can fail. Snitzer never had a pulse despite good carbon dioxide readings. Without the information from capnography, he says, it would have been reasonable to stop CPR — and Snitzer likely would have died.

In places other than Minnesota, capnography is slowly becoming standard equipment for emergency responders. In response (or maybe because of this), the American Heart Association has added capnography to its list of 2010 guidelines for treating heart attack and cardiac arrest patients.

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In other related news, last month several news organizations presented pieces about another advancement in predicting the possibility of heart attacks. Although there is some disagreement as to how these stories were presented in the media, the focus should be on how there are options being presented to the American people (see: Cardio Exchange) with regard to heart health.
In other related news, last month several news organizations presented pieces about another advancement in predicting the possibility of heart attacks. Although there is some disagreement as to how these stories were presented in the media, the focus should be on how there are options being presented to the American people (see: Cardio Exchange) with regard to heart health.
Among the other procedures being introduced to help in the early screening of heart against heart attacks is calcium imaging (CI). When used appropriately—that is, targeted toward those with increased risk, as opposed to a broad use—calcium imaging has the potential of being a useful additional great diagnostic tool in the fight to prevent the leading killer of Americans in any given year. It is a procedure which involves a cardiac CT scan to obtain information about the presence, location and extent of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries—the vessels that supply oxygen-containing blood to the heart muscle. The presence of this calcified material could be an early indicator of atherosclerosis.
The downsides of this procedure is that it is costly, may or may not be subsidized by insurance, and is not a definitive test for early onset of heart disease or of a heart attack (hence, the mention of it being an “additional great diagnostic tool”).
Finally, The NBC Evening News reports the growing, but still controversial use of a blood test called, a C-reactive protein or CRP test. As in the case of calcium on the walls of coronary arteries, the presence of CRP in the blood is a potential marker which could be an early indicator of heart disease (that is to say that CPR levels in the blood will rise in response to inflammation, which in turn has been linked to atherosclerosis). The same cautions with calcium imaging applies likewise to CRP testing, although more insurance companies are willing to pay for it rather than CI.

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As with many things we do, including the thoughts/thinking we engage in, our health-related issues are a matter of choice. Being informed is simply another way of providing the ammunition to make informed choices. Now take what you’ve read to heart…literally

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article Mr Sims. My father had a heart attack 2 years ago and survived. Information like this helps people like him.

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