New EKG system will help to win a race against time | NevadaAppeal.com
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New EKG system will help to win a race against time

by David Mirhadi
Appeal City Editor

With the implementation of new technology, Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center personnel are looking to win a race against time.

The hospital staff unveiled a new electrocardiogram system that can take images of a patient’s heart abnormalities while the patient is aboard an ambulance or helicopter. Those images can then be transmitted electronically to the hospital’s emergency room, where physicians can prepare proper treatment options.

The technology can reduce by critical minutes the time it takes to diagnose a heart condition such as a heart attack or other abnormalities, and allow for more advanced treatment en route to the hospital and better preparation once the patient arrives, hospital administrators said.

Such technology is already being used by a number of emergency medical responders in Lyon and Storey counties.

Since the equipment was first used in April, the so-called 90-minute “door-to-balloon” time for inserting equipment to restore blood flow to the heart for patients has been met or shortened 100 percent of the time, said David Tillitt, chairman of emergency services for Carson Tahoe.

“This is a huge opportunity for us to do things for our patients in the field,” said John Gillenwater, fire chief for Central Lyon County Fire Protection District. The department has four such machines available for use.

The technology should shorten the time to diagnose and treat abnormalities, a critical component of saving lives, said Katherine Hansen, a registered flight nurse with CALSTAR, which operates helicopters for air ambulance transport throughout Northern California and parts of Nevada.

“Our biggest advantage is being able to notify people at the hospital and having them ready for treatment,” said Hansen, who is based in South Lake Tahoe.

The air-ambulance company has been made eligible for several of the monitors, which should be installed on the aircraft in a matter of months.

“Every year we have people that can absolutely benefit from this service,” she said.

Hansen works on a helicopter that responds to as many as 350 calls a year, from places as far apart as Hawthorne and Lake Tahoe.

The field EKG system is the first in Northern Nevada and is the first multi-county system in the state, and is funded in part by area residents John and Mary Robertson and the Reno-based Robert Z. Hawkins Foundation.

Storey County has five such machines for its use.

During a demonstration, emergency medical technician Matt Brown showed how the machines are used. Once the patient has been hooked up to the machine via a number of tiny electrical monitors, those monitors transmit an EKG of the person’s heart rhythms. Based on that information, which is transmitted to the hospital, treatment options can be prepared.

“It helps us rule out a lot of different things,” Brown said. “It gives the docs the ability to see what we see before the patient comes to the hospital.”