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Emergency Department gains international attention for novel use of decades-old technology.
SAN DIEGO — Emergency physicians at Sharp Memorial Hospital are the first in the nation, and among a handful in the world, to use a heart-lung bypass system to help patients arriving to the Emergency Department in complete cardiac arrest. Typically used during heart surgeries, heart-lung bypass mechanically circulates and oxygenates blood for the body while circumventing the heart and lungs, allowing doctors to work in a bloodless surgical field. At Sharp Memorial, emergency physicians are expanding the technology’s use outside of the operating room by using the machine to keep patients suffering from cardiac arrest alive long enough to diagnosis and treat potentially deadly heart conditions.
“Patients are arriving here dead, technically speaking, and we are sending them home alive and well thanks our use of the heart-lung bypass,” said Dr. Zach Shinar, a Sharp-affiliated emergency physician at Sharp Memorial. “The machine allows us to maintain or enhance the function of a patient’s heart and lungs while we look for the source of the heart failure and potentially repair any defects.”
The technology was first used during heart surgery in the 1950s, but was only recently incorporated into the care at Sharp Memorial as a tool for specially trained emergency physicians. While it is common practice for other hospitals to call in specialists to administer heart-lung bypass or transfer patients to departments who train with the equipment, Sharp Memorial’s use of the machine in the Emergency Department, with emergency physicians, saves resources and time when even minutes can mean the difference between life and death.
The team’s technique is gaining national and international attention for Sharp Memorial Hospital with several of its physicians giving lectures to doctors eager to learn how to incorporate this novel use of heart-lung bypass at their own hospitals. Dr. Shinar, along with colleague and Sharp-affiliated physician Dr. Joe Bellezzo, presented during the American Heart Association’s annual conference and also to a group of emergency physicians from across the country in October.
“We are thrilled at the interest our peers have shown in our use of heart-lung bypass, but our true measure of success is in the families we have saved thanks to this technique,” said Dr. Bellezzo. “Our quick, effective use of heart-lung bypass has enabled patients who might otherwise not survive cardiac arrest to go on to lead normal lives. We hope to encourage more emergency departments to use this to better their own patients’ chances of survival.”
Since April 2010, the Sharp Memorial Hospital Emergency and Trauma Center has saved five patients using this technique — including Ralph Berry, who suffered a massive heart attack and experienced full cardiac arrest in the ambulance ride to the hospital. Berry had no pulse and couldn’t breathe on his own when he arrived at the hospital. Drs. Shinar and Bellezzo kept Berry alive using the heart lung bypass long enough to undergo a lifesaving coronary angioplasty with stenting of a completely obstructed coronary vessel. Berry left the hospital one week later without the need for any additional heart surgery and has not suffered a setback in his health since.
For More Information
To learn more about Sharp Memorial Hospital's emergency and trauma services or to find a Sharp-affiliated physician, search for San Diego doctors or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday 8 am to 6 pm. If you have a life or limb medical emergency, please call 911.
To learn more about heart and vascular services at Sharp Memorial Hospital, visit Heart and Vascular Care. To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.
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