These devices may save your life

These devices may save your life

An upgraded device, that has been fitted recently in 50 Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) ambulances here, has raised the odds of survival and recovery for heart-attack victims.

The souped-up Automated External Defibrillator (AED) not only transmits information on the state of the heart, but also vital signs such as heart rate, oxygen saturation level and blood pressure.

This, in turn, allows doctors at the hospital to decide on how the patient should be treated or revived, even before he gets there.

This vastly improves the chances of treating the patient, as every minute wasted on diagnosing his condition can ruin his chances of survival significantly.

Once the new AED has done its job, the time taken to relay the information to the hospital has also been shortened to about just 15 seconds, thanks to a 3G network.

Previously, only information on heart activity, measured through an electrocardiogram (ECG), was transmitted by GPRS, which was slower.

The upshot: Cardiac patients are seen and treated earlier.

Dr Ng Yih Yng, the SCDF's chief medical officer, said: "This gives the hospital a much better idea on whether the patient is stable, unstable or critically ill, and this allows the hospital to prepare better. "

The upgraded defibrillator was showcased during the SCDF's workplan seminar, held yesterday at ITE College Central in Ang Mo Kio.

Also on show were other life-saving measures for cardiac-arrest victims, like an upcoming nationwide registry of defibrillators that will let people know where the nearest defibrillators in shopping malls, hotels and country clubs are.

More than 1,700 people suffer from cardiac arrest every year in Singapore. Survival rate is just 2.4 per cent, which is low compared to the 11 per cent in Australia and 9 per cent in Europe.

Emergency doctors say that, beyond a certain threshold, every minute's delay in treating a heart-attack victim reduces the person's chances of survival by 7 to 10 per cent.

Emergency physician Eillyne Seow from Tan Tock Seng Hospital said the time taken between a cardiac arrest and procedure, called the "door-to-balloon" time, is expected to be within 60 minutes.

"Anything that shortens this time will increase the patient's survival rate. The small things add up," she said.

Besides getting information faster, SCDF paramedics will soon be armed with a needle that can administer drugs more effectively to victims whose veins are difficult to locate after a heart attack.

The intraosseous needle, which can be injected directly into a bone, will be rolled out in the next three to four months, said Dr Ng.

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