A year after program launches, SUVs equipped with life-saving equipment show success

Callan Gray
Updated: December 25, 2020 10:38 PM
Created: December 25, 2020 10:00 PM

A team at the University of Minnesota Medical School is celebrating the success of a life-saving program.

The Minnesota Mobile Resuscitation Consortium (MMRC) launched in December 2019, equipping three SUV’s with technology to help treat cardiac arrest patients. The results of the first four months of the program are now published in EClinicalMagazine by the Lancet.

“We’re able to initiate ECMO in 100% of the patients that we treat,” said Dr. Jason Bartos, the president of MMRC. “Other programs have tried to do this and have not been able to achieve that 100% success rate.”

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.

“In cardiac arrest, your heart stops beating, blood isn't flowing anywhere in your body and every part of your body feels the starvation of oxygen,” Bartos said. “This ECMO machine provides the substitute for heart-pumped blood flow. It provides the blood flow and the oxygen your body needs.”

MMRC is ready to respond 24/7 when a patient goes into cardiac arrest. 

“When those calls go to 911, the EMS services across the Twin Cities mobilize and go to that site where they start providing advanced treatment and if they recognize a patient that is a compatible patient for our program, they will give us a call,” Bartos said. 

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The MMRC team then rushes to the hospital nearest to patient in an SUV equipped with an ECMO machine. According to Dr. Bartos, they are typically able to be at any of the participating sites within 15 minutes.

“So we can be there ready for the patient to arrive,” said Dr. Bartos. “If they’re on the east side of the metro area, our team will mobilize to the Regions emergency department.”

Once the patient arrives, the team starts ECMO treatment.

“We’re able to stabilize them and we’re able to give them the best chance we can,” he said. “Time is really the enemy and every minute counts.” 

From Dec. 1, 2019, to April 1, 58 people met the criteria for the program and were treated by the mobile ECMO team. The majority of those patients were men with a mean age of about 57 years old.

Forty-three percent of the patients were discharged from the hospital able to return to normal life, or with few limitations. 

“This is a total game-changer when it comes to cardiac resuscitation outside the hospital,” said Walter Panzirer, trustee with the Helmsley Charitable Trust. “Nowhere else in the world is doing a project to this scale.”

The Helmsley Charitable Trust funded the majority of the program for the first three years with an $18.6 million grant. Panzirer told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they are encouraged by the early results and hope the program will expand.

“And have that be a true model for what resuscitation will look like in the future across the United States and across the globe," he said.

A year after program launches, SUVs equipped with life-saving equipment show success | KSTP-TV A year after program launches, SUVs equipped with life-saving equipment show success | KSTP-TV

The program involves Fairview Health Services, Health Partners and North Memorial Health Care System. According to Bartos, the collaboration is essential to its success.

“The number one takeaway of this study is that it takes an entire community to provide this therapy efficiently and successfully,” he said. “As people from outside of Minnesota look to develop programs such as this, they need to look at ways to develop that expertise in a small group of people and then expand from there.”

He hopes to continue to expand the program in the Twin Cities and implement it across the state.

“Certainly we have other more urban areas in Minnesota where we could form a small core for programs like this — St. Cloud, Duluth, Bemidji, Moorhead,” Bartos said. “We could expand to those other larger, population-dense areas in the state and from there cover more rural surrounding areas.

“If we can deliver these resources to the patient faster — even a minute or 10 minutes faster than we could before — we can really save many lives.”

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