On Tuesday, Feb. 11, Fitch Rona EMS participated in a cardiac arrest simulation training, as part of an initiative in Dane County to increase cardiac arrest survival rates.

The first responders were trained in a process that has been used in hospitals across the country for over 50 years, but was only just first put to use in the field anywhere in the nation in 2019, thanks to advancements in technology.

The process, known as extracorporeal membrane oxygenation or ECMO, has been in use in hospitals since the 1960s. It significantly increases chances of resuscitation and survival.

According to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, use of ECMO increases a cardiac arrest victim’s survival rate from 20% to 60%.

The process involves using a tube inserted into a vein to remove the blood from a person’s body, filter out carbon dioxide and add oxygen and then warms the blood back to body temperature, before pumping it back into the body.

The ECMO field training with Fitch Rona EMS was held alongside attendees from Sun Prairie EMS and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Emergency Medicine, UW Health Clinical Simulation Program. It was facilitated with help from Dane County EMS and Dane County Public Safety Communications at UW Health University Hospital.

It was the first time in Dane County that the system was tested by mobile response units.

Regional hospitals around Wisconsin are also increasingly using ECMO. Last March, University Hospital had only just installed the system 72 hours before an anonymous 21-year-old-man’s life was saved by ECMO. The man had fallen through the ice of a lake. Dr. Brian Patterson of UW Health stated at the time the man likely would not have survived without ECMO, making the timing of the hospital’s adoption of the tech especially significant.

According to the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization, which tracks ECMO implementation in U.S. hospitals, use of the process has more than doubled over the past decade – 108 hospitals employed ECMO in 2008 versus 264 hospitals in 2019.

Neal Patten, community reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.