A new CPR device being used by Beaufort County EMS can do something a human rescuer can't: maintain consistent, steady chest compressions that could be key to saving the life of heart attack victims.
It has one more advantage over its human counterpart: It never gets tired.
The Lucas 2 Chest Compression System is designed to keep oxygen flowing to vital organs during severe cardiac arrest. It performs at least 100 compressions a minute and has been shown to circulate twice as much oxygen as manual CPR. The device was paid for by a recent grant. County spokeswoman Joy Nelson didn't know who funded the grant nor how much it was for.
It will be used mainly by EMS crews stationed in southern Beaufort County and is scheduled to arrive in September.
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Nelson said a similar model purchased eight months ago already has been used 49 times, mostly by crews in northern Beaufort County.
Unlike even the strongest EMT, the Lucas machine doesn't get fatigued and provides consistent chest compressions. It can also keep working in circumstances not ideal for EMS crews -- situations in which the patient is being carried and during transport to the hospital, for example.
"There are times we are walking down narrow hallways or down stairs when we physically can't do compressions," Donna Ownby, director of Beaufort County EMS, said in a statement. "Compressions shouldn't stop for more than 10 seconds, and with the Lucas 2, those compressions don't stop."
The device, created by Swedish medical equipment company Physio-Control Inc., gained FDA approval in 2009, according to a news release from that year. Physio-Control was sold to Bain Capital -- the company founded by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney -- in January.
Sara Lindroth, spokeswoman for Physio-Control, said Tuesday that about 5,000 of the devices have been sold worldwide, most in the United States, Japan and Europe.
Joheida Fister, spokeswoman for the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division, said Tuesday the department doesn't yet use the devices but would someday like to acquire them. The main issue, she said, is cost. She said the department may seek grants to offset the roughly $14,000 per-unit cost.
Currently, the department uses a "pit crew" approach to CPR in which technicians relieve one another as needed, she said.