Air ambulance partners with famous heart hospital to give cardiac arrest patients in Aylesbury Vale best chance of survival

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Thames Valley Air Ambulance aims to collect the patient and transfer them to Harefield Hospital for treatment to begin within 60 minutes

Thames Valley Air Ambulance has partnered with Harefield Hospital to enable people who have a cardiac arrest outside of hospital to receive the most advanced treatment within one hour.

The partnership, the first of its kind in the UK, will see eligible patients who don’t respond to standard CPR resuscitation airlifted to Harefield Hospital for E-CPR.

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E-CPR is a resuscitation method that combines CPR with placing patients on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), a machine which pumps blood through an artificial lung outside the body when a patient’s own circulatory system is unable to function properly.

Thames Valley Air AmbulanceThames Valley Air Ambulance
Thames Valley Air Ambulance

This technique has been found to improve survival rates of patients with cardiac arrests. A 2020 study found survival rates reached 43 per cent, compared with just seven per cent in patients who received standard CPR.

The technique is currently administered to patients who experience a cardiac arrest while at Harefield, a specialist heart and lung hospital in north London.

Now eligible patients who have cardiac arrests in the community and do not respond to typical interventions can be flown to Harefield for this time-critical intervention.

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Dr Waqas Akhtar, registrar in cardiology and intensive care at Harefield, said: “A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency where a person’s heart has suddenly stopped pumping blood around the body.

“When someone goes into cardiac arrest, it is critical to restore circulation to ensure organs are not starved of oxygen.

"Delivering effective CPR, whether in hospital by medical professionals or in the community by members of the public, is important to treat patients with cardiac arrests, however survival rates tend to be low.

“An ECMO machine takes over the function of a patient’s heart and lungs by taking deoxygenated blood out of the patient and inserting oxygenated blood back into them.

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“This new service, combining CPR with placing patients on ECMO, has the potential to save more lives than we are able to do with CPR alone.”

From the moment of cardiac arrest, the Thames Valley Air Ambulance team will aim to have collected the patient, transferred them to hospital, and placed them on ECMO within 60 minutes, giving them the best chance of survival.

Dr James Raitt, research lead at Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: “Patient care is at the heart of all we do, so we are proud to be working with Harefield Hospital as part of this new lifesaving service.

"Our critical care crews have been trained to quickly identify the patients who will benefit the most from E-CPR and then enact our procedures for ensuring the patient arrives as quickly as possible for the treatment.”

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Harefield Hospital is one of fewer than 10 centres in the UK to provide ECMO treatment to patients whose circulatory systems are compromised.

Consultant cardiologist Dr Mark Mason said: “The launch of this new service at Harefield Hospital is part of the hospital’s long history of performing highly specialised procedures and providing innovative cardiac care to people with the most serious cardiac conditions.

“We are proud to be delivering this service in partnership with the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and to be providing such pioneering care to the most critically ill patients in the community.”