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Common wisdom holds that heart attack victims can go about 20 minutes without a pulse and recover. Beyond that it was believed the lack of oxygen to the brain made resuscitation dicey.But a device called a capnograph, and a man called Howard Snitzer may have changed all that.
A story in the Wall Street Journal reports that Snitzer suffered a heart attack and with the device, was revived 96 minutes later with no brain damage at all.
By displaying the amount of CO2 in a victims exhaled breath while receiving CPR, the capnograph told rescuers how much oxygen was circulating in Snitzer’s blood and whether or not the growing crew of medics should let their patient go.
With Snitzers number showing he had plenty of oxygen in his blood, the crew kept up the CPR, but at the 96th minute on a helicopter to the Mayo Clinic, they agreed they’d give it just one more shot.
They gave Snitzer a final anti-arrhythmia shot and one more shock, the twelfth. Snitzer’s pulsed returned, but there was no celebration. The medic in charge, Mr. Goodman, said:
“I’ll be honest, it was not a great feeling that night,” he recalls. “It was a good feeling that we got pulses back, but there was nothing in history to tell me he would survive this and that he could recover” with his brain intact. “I wasn’t sure we had done the right thing for him.”
They had. Less than a week later Snitzer was out of intensive care and the rescue team went to see him.
Mr. Snitzer was sitting up in a conference room, talking to his family in a normal voice. “It was a little bit of a shell shock to see him doing that well,” Mr. Goodman says.
Snitzer’s full recovery was published online by the Mayo Clinic in March, and is described as “a complete neurological recovery,” and “the longest duration of pulselessness in an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with a good outcome.”
Already, American Heart Association training materials are being rewritten to include instructions on how to use capnography.