Heart attack victims 'chill out' to protect brain

7:40 PM, Jun 3, 2011   |    comments
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Grady Ambulance (file photo)

ATLANTA -- There's a new meaning to the often used phrase, "chilling out." It's a medical technique that can save lives and it's now found in all 24 of Grady EMS Life Support Ambulances.

The equipment supports hypothermic therapy, and for heart attack victims it can prevent brain damage.

Skilled technicians using specialized equipment immediately start a process to cool down the body and the brain of a heart attack victim as soon as pulse is restored.

The process cools the body by as much as 5-to-7 degrees to significantly lessen or eliminate irreparable brain damage.

They infuse a chilled saline solution to reduce temperature as quickly as possible. Once that is done, technicians immediately place icepacks around the patient to further reduce body temperature. At the same time they are monitoring all heart functions and administering prescribed medications.

Emergency physicians, like Grady's Gerald Beltran, value hypothermal therapy as a life-saver.

"If I were to have a heart attack I would want this done on me. I would want to have this protocol or the therapeutic treatment available given to me if I had a heart attack, and I would want it to continue it in the Emergency Department or the ICU. It gives me the best chance of surviving and the best chances that my brain is going to be okay when I get out," Dr. Beltran said.

Grady EMS is Atlanta's official 911 emergency response team. All 220 of its EMS technicians are fully trained in the use of hypothermal therapy. They will start the process no matter which hospital you may be taken to. 

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