Don’t be afraid of mechanical chest compression
Although early research raised questions about the quality of resuscitation outcomes when mechanical piston chest compression devices are used, a 2015 systematic review and meta-analysis found that “man was equal to machine,” Dr. Allen said. “The bottom line is that these devices may be a reasonable alternative to conventional CPR in specific settings.”
American Heart Association guidelines state that mechanical compressions may be appropriate in certain specific situations “where the delivery of high-quality manual compressions may be challenging or dangerous for the provider.”
According to Dr. Allen, “there are times when it’s useful,” such as for a patient with COVID-19, in the cath lab, or in a medical helicopter.
Move quickly to defibrillation
“Most of us know that you want to shock as early as possible in shockable rhythms,” Dr. Allen said. Support, she said, comes from a 2008 study that linked delayed defibrillation to lower survival rates. “We want to shock as soon as possible, because your chances of surviving go down for every minute you wait.”
Take special care for patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19
“Not surprisingly, the goals here are to minimize exposure to staff,” Dr. Allen said.
Put on personal protective equipment before entering the room even if care is delayed, she advised, and reduce the number of staff members in the room below the typical maximum of eight. “In COVID, it should be a maximum of six, and some institutions have even gotten it down to four where the code leaders are outside the room with an iPad.”
Use mechanical compression devices, she advised, and place patients on ventilators as soon as possible. She added: “Use a HEPA [high-efficiency particulate air] filter for all your airway modalities.”
CPR may be challenging in some cases, such as when a large, intubated patient is prone and cannot be quickly or safely flipped over. In those cases, consider posterior chest compressions, also known as reverse CPR, at vertebral positions T7-T10. “We have done reverse CPR on several COVID patients throughout the Emory system,” she said.
Debrief right after codes
“You really want to debrief with the code team,” Dr. Allen said. “If you don’t already have a policy in place at your institution, you should help come up with one where you sit down with the team and talk about what could you have done better as a group. It’s not a time to place blame. It’s a time to learn.”
Dr. Allen has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
This article was updated 7/26/21.
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