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March 8, 2007
Toronto Fire Services deploys new defibrillators as part of a research program to improve survival from cardiac arrest
Toronto Fire Services responds to more than 1500 cardiac arrests each year. Along with Toronto Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Toronto Fire Services provides care during the crucial few minutes after a cardiac arrest. For the first time, both Toronto EMS and Toronto Fire Services are participating in a large-scale medical trial of potential new treatments for cardiac arrest.

With the launch of a new research program funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – Institute of Circulatory and Respiratory Health, and other Canadian and US agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, physicians hope to learn how to improve the chances of survival from cardiac arrest. The Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) is conducting collaborative clinical trials of new treatments for cardiac arrest and severe traumatic injury. ROC involves public safety agencies, emergency medical services agencies, fire departments, regional hospitals, and medical centres in 11 regions in Canada and the US.

There are more than 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac deaths each year in Canada. Most of these are from sudden cardiac arrest. In cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating effectively, blood does not circulate, and no pulse can be felt. The victim suddenly loses consciousness. Heart attacks, which are caused by the blockage of a coronary artery, are one of the leading causes of cardiac arrest. In many cases, the heart rhythm abruptly becomes disorganized – resulting in ventricular fibrillation and a catastrophic interruption of the heart’s pumping ability. To avoid death, cardiac arrest victims must be treated within minutes with either defibrillation – to shock the abnormally beating heart back into a normal rhythm – or CPR, followed by other procedures by paramedics.

In order to provide a higher quality of care for victims of cardiac arrest, Toronto firefighters are being equipped with new state of the art semi-automatic defibrillators supplied by Zoll Medical Inc. “The new defibrillators allow a higher quality of care and provide firefighters with an important tool to improve both cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation at the scene of a cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Michael Feldman, the physician from the Sunnybrook-Osler Centre for Prehospital Care responsible for Toronto Fire Services training and medical programs.

“There is a high probability of benefit for patients participating in these trials,” said Dr. Art Slutsky, ROC Toronto’s principal investigator and vice president of research at St. Michael’s Hospital. “EMS and fire personnel involved in the research have been trained in the most up-to-date and effective methods of treatment and all the therapies they are using have been shown to be potentially life-saving.”

Toronto Fire Services instructors have been conducting an intensive training program for firefighters participating in the ROC trial since January 15, 2007. The new defibrillators hit the streets of Toronto beginning March 6, 2007.

Media contact:
Dr. Michael Feldman, Medical Director, Firefighter Prehospital Care Program, Sunnybrook-Osler Centre for Prehospital Care, 416-667-2200



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