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Brunswick County EMS to participate in Duke University study

When your heart stops, time is of the essence, but that doesn’t just go for paramedics getting on scene.
Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 4:48 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Every year, more than 300,000 people die from cardiac arrest, but a new study could help cut into that number for communities around here.

When your heart stops, time is of the essence, but that doesn’t just go for paramedics getting on scene.

“Good compressions on someone? A maximum of two minutes — a minute, really ideal,” said Rich Burns, Brunswick County’s EMS training coordinator.

How paramedics respond once they get there is just as critical. That’s why Brunswick County EMS is part of a Duke University study to look into the best practices for treating cardiac arrest. Similar studies have already led to real changes in the county.

“This is the same type of thing that started our Pit Crew CPR which we started several years ago,” said EMS deputy director Lyle Johnston. “It organized how we did CPR. Somebody was responsible for the airways, somebody was responsible for doing the chest compressions and there was a group of people ready to relieve that person on a regular basis and there was somebody responsible for reading the cardiac monitor and somebody responsible for giving the drugs that need to be given based on the protocols.”

Studies have also led to new technology in ambulances.

“We’ve just implemented the LUCAS-3 devices in our system, which are an automated CPR device that we can place on a patient which guarantees that we have continuous, good CPR being delivered and the CPR isn’t dependent on how tired the responder is,” said Johnston.

For the next six years, the county will take part in the RAndomized Cluster Evaluation of Cardiac ARrest Systems Study, better known as the RACE CARS Trial.

“For us, it’s really changing nothing,” said Johnston. We’re actually selected as a control system, so our cardiac arrest care is not going to change. All of our stuff will be based on the current AHA — American Heart Association — guidelines and protocols based out of the North Carolina Office of EMS that we’ve adopted.”

Brunswick County already uses the system Duke pulls the data from, so there’s no cost to the county. In fact, the county could make thousands of dollars from the research. Each quarter, the county could receive up to $250 to reimburse for the time it takes to log the data. Duke University will also pay $75 for each qualifying patient: a person that goes into cardiac arrest and survives.

In the end, the study is about saving lives today and tomorrow.

“What we do every day makes a difference in what we’re going to do in the future and makes a difference in people’s lives,” said Johnston.

Dr. Christopher Granger, the researcher heading the study, says once they find which methods of care work best, Duke University will work with the participating counties to implement those strategies.

Participation in the study needed approval from the Board of commissioners, which the board gave unanimously earlier tonight.

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