World’s First Cardiac Arrest Care Vehicle Ready to Respond in Edina
A state-of-the-art life-saving vehicle is ready to respond 24/7 in the western metro area. The mobile ECMO truck provides specialized care for patients in cardiac arrest. It is the first of its kind in the world to hit the streets.
“We couldn’t get to patients as quickly as we’d like, so we decided that instead of patients coming to us, we need to find a way to get our team to the patient,” said Dr. Demetris Yannopoulos. , professor and director of the Center for Resuscitation Medicine at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.
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Its size is staggering and it is equipped with technology normally only found in a few hospitals. It was designed from the ground up with the help of various experts to have the power and durability to deliver mobile cardiac care, even in the most extreme weather conditions.
An ECMO machine is at the heart of the vehicle. ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and maintains blood flow when the heart and lungs fail.
“We can control the circulation of the patient by placing tubes inside their veins and arteries, taking the blood out and oxygenating it, pumping it back under pressure,” Yannopoulos explained. “Effectively, this bypasses the heart and lungs.”
He added: “You have everything you need to survive for days, but in this case it gives us the stability to take care of everything else the patient needs.”
It has been based at an Edina Fire Department station since May. Paramedics have received extensive training to support the medical team performing the procedure.
“There is a lot of excitement about being a part of a program like this,” said EMS Chief Ryan Quinn. “They have hit the nail on the head, they have worked hard and I am very impressed by the amount of dedication and work that has gone into it.”
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When a call comes in, a team of two or three paramedics drives to a designated location. Quinn explained that they use a custom lift to get the patient into the vehicle, where Yannopoulos or another doctor will work with a Life Link doctor to perform the procedure.
“The Edina Fire folks will be out front preparing medications and getting all the equipment ready so they can perform the procedure with as much support as possible,” Quinn said.
Once the patient is connected to the ECMO machine, they are transferred to an ambulance. The patient goes to the hospital while the ECMO truck returns to the fire station for cleaning and replacement.
They have treated six patients so far. Because it is innovative technology, ambulances currently meet the truck in the Southdale Hospital parking lot so backup resources are nearby. According to Quinn, he will be ready to go out into the community after a few more patients are treated.
“We’re going to take this further south, west, northwest and in directions where we can increase the number of people we’re helping with this,” Quinn said. “The more we do that, hopefully, the more the program will grow and hopefully spawn more programs across the country.”
Yannopoulos came up with the idea in 2017. Engineers started building the truck in 2019. It took about a year and a half to build the vehicle and then its launch was delayed due to the pandemic.
It’s a continuation of ongoing work by the Minnesota Mobile Resuscitation Consortium, which launched a fleet of mobile ECMO SUVs in 2019. The MMRC team brings an ECMO machine to the hospital closest to the patient.
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“This is a program that is truly unique because it is based on collaboration between multiple medical systems and hospitals and cannot be easily replicated unless there is the will in the communities to come together,” Yannopoulos said. “What we have seen is that we have been able to save 40 percent of the patients.”
The new truck takes this response a step further by reaching patients directly. It also expands ECMO access throughout the West Metro.
“We don’t have a hospital that we can collaborate on that far,” he said. “There is a very large suburban population living in the West, Northwest and Southwest who could benefit from this.”
According to the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, this is a collaborative initiative funded by an $18.6 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and in-kind donations from industry and private donors. Other recognized donors include Zoll Medical, Stryker Emergency Care, Getinge Incorporated and General Electric. Healthcare system partners include Fairview Health Services, Regions Hospital (HealthPartners) and North Memorial Health Care System, with a contractual association for health services with M Health Fairview, Health Partners, U of M Physicians, Hennepin Healthcare and Life Link III for doctors.