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Life-Saving Heart 'Plunger'

A new study shows that a device for giving life-saving resuscitation to people whose hearts have stopped beating works better than standard CPR. CBS News Health Correspondent Dr. Emily Senay reports.

"A study from France in The New England Journal Of Medicine shows that a device known as a cardiac pump is not only much more effective in restarting the heart after a heart attack or cardiac arrest than standard CPR, but increases the chances of survival as well," says Senay.

"The device works much in the same way as a common household plunger. It compresses the chest in the same way as standard CPR, but then also decompresses the chest before the process is repeated."

Twice as many people in the study survived a year after treatment with the pump than those who got standard CPR.

"These long-term survivors were people whose hearts were completely stopped, flat-lined, before receiving treatment," explains Senay. "More than two-thirds of those survivors also returned to completely normal brain function, which is a big issue when the heart stops beating and the brain is deprived of oxygen."

When the cardiac pump decompresses the lungs and sucks the air out, it also creates a pressure vacuum - like a bellows - that sucks blood back into the heart to help get it started again.

"So when you compress again, you're sending more blood out. That's one theory on why these people might do better. They are getting more oxygen circulating because more blood is flowing through," says Senay.

She said there is no timetable for bringing the device to market. Its makers encountered problems with the application filed six years ago. Now that these new studies are going out, they will be resubmitted.

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