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Study Hails CPR Alternative

A gadget that looks something like a toilet plunger can more than double the chances of surviving cardiac arrest, according to a recent study in the New England Journal Of Medicine.

"There's a better technique out there than standard CPR when it is used correctly," said study co-author Dr. Keith Lurie of the University of Minnesota, a co-inventor of the pump.

Earlier studies have found that the hand-held suction device, called the Cardio-Pump, can be a lifesaver, but others have declared it no better than standard CPR.

With CPR, a person's palms are pressed against the victim's chest to force blood through the body, while oxygen is blown into the lungs. The pump is a hand-held suction device that is intended to apply more pressure to the chest than bare hands alone can achieve.

The pump sells for about $200 overseas and has been used in France since 1992, but is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and is not widely available in the United States.

In the study, researchers looked at heart attack patients in Paris and Thionville, France, who were examined from 1993 to 1995. A total of 377 were treated with the pump and 373 had CPR.

This latest study found that among those patients treated with the pump, 5 percent survived at least one year, compared with 2 percent of those given CPR.

The study also found that 6 percent of the patients treated with the pump were discharged from the hospital without any brain damage, compared with 2 percent for those given CPR.

The American Heart Association has thus far declined to endorse the pump, noting that is not FDA-approved. Dr. Lance Becker, a member of the AHA council on cardiopulmonary and critical care, called the research a "very promising preliminary study" but said it has some notable weaknesses.

"The study has relatively small numbers for a city as large as Paris. Probably the most worrisome fact is that several other cities in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and California have had completely negative results with the same device," Becker said. "Additional data needs to be collected before one would want to advocate the widespread use of the devices for the public."

Lurie said he believes the inconsistencies arise from varying quality of emergency services and training from city to city.

"I very much regret that this device is not available in the United States, because I believe with time, it would lead to improved outcomes if used correctly," he said.