Excerpts from the news-gazette.com:

Champaign’s Fire Chief Gary Ludwig witnessed the benefits of using mechanical CPR devices in Memphis, Tenn., where he previously was a deputy chief.

That department equipped all of its front-line ambulances with mechanical CPR devices and saw an immediate boost — from 21 percent to 36 percent — in cardiac-arrest patients with a return of spontaneous circulation.

Now the Champaign Fire Department is poised to put 24 of these devices to work in a dozen fire departments in Champaign and Piatt counties with the help of a federal grant, the acceptance of which still requires the approval of the city council.

The fire department has been awarded a $333,819 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is proposing to keep nine of the mechanical CPR devices it would buy to equip its own vehicles and distribute others to Urbana, Bement, Bondville, Gifford, Homer, Ivesdale, Northern Piatt, Rantoul, Sadorus, Sangamon Valley, and Savoy fire departments.

Reviews about the benefits of mechanical CPR have been mixed. The American Heart Association said in updated (2015) CPR guidelines that evidence for using mechanical piston devices for chest compressions versus manual chest compressions in patients with cardiac arrest “does not demonstrate a benefit.”

“Manual chest compressions remain the standard of care for the treatment of cardiac arrest,” the organization said.

However, it also said, the device may be a reasonable alternative in some settings where high-quality manual CPR delivery may be challenging or dangerous for the provider.

Ludwig said he disputes less-than-favorable studies, based on his previous experience with mechanical CPR use and favorable studies he’s seen on the LUCAS chest compression system, one of the devices on the market.

Ludwig said some studies don’t necessarily show what paramedics and firefighters experience in the field trying to do manual CPR under some circumstances — such as trying to deliver chest compressions in the back of a moving emergency vehicle hanging on with one arm.

Dr. Brad Weir, Carle’s EMS medical director, said these devices deliver “flawless and tireless compressions.”

“Instead of having people do it and switch compressors every couple of minutes, the machine can do it,” he said.

The quality of CPR can begin to fall off as the person doing the chest compressions becomes exhausted, which is why caregivers administering the compressions are advised to switch off every couple of minutes.

“In areas where you may not have as many people to perform the compressions, this could be key to the source of flawless, tireless compressions for a longer time,” Weir said.

Subject to the council’s approval of the grant, Ludwig said firefighters and EMS personnel on a cardiac arrest call will begin with manual CPR, apply the device to the patient, and the patient would ride to the hospital undergoing CPR with the mechanical device.

Approval of the grant isn’t yet on a city council agenda. The federal grant requires council approval because there’s a local funding match of $33,381 involved, according to the fire department.

thanks Dan