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Man brought back to life after 45 minutes of cardiac arrest

After more than 45 minutes of cardiac arrest, a 37-year old businessman from Gujarat in India could have been pronounced dead – but he was brought back to life again thanks to the skills of Dr. K R Balakrishnan’s team in Chennai and the help of Getinge’s extracorporeal life support device. The successful outcome has been well covered by media in several leading newspapers in India.

The patient was connected to Getinge’s Permanent Life Support (PLS) System* that oxygenates the patient’s blood outside the body. The blood is then circulated through a membrane oxygenator and reinfused directly into the patient’s arterial system. This maintains circulation and ensures that the brain is supplied with oxygen.

“The patient was for all practical purposes dead, as despite cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiac massage for 45 minutes after he sustained a cardiac arrest, the heart could not be revived. He was initiated on a Veno-Arterial Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (VA-ECMO), during cardiac massage (ECPR) and the heart started to beat after 20 minutes. Mr Thakur woke up after 10 days in a coma, with an artificial heart pump keeping him alive until he received a new heart four days later. Five months after the ordeal, he walks again, happy to be alive and back at work. ECMO therapy brought him back to life before the brain sustained major, irreversible damage. This happens routinely and ECPR is part of our protocol,” Dr Balakrishnan, Cardiac Sciences Director at Fortis Malar Hospital in Chennai told The Hindu.

In the six months leading up to this incident, Dr. Balakrishnan had successfully put 12 patients on VA-ECMO, all in critical cardiogenic shock or cardiac arrest. Nine of them survived and were subsequently offered heart transplants or Ventricular Assist Devices.

The development of Getinge’s life support systems, including the PLS System, has been based on extensive clinical experience – and Dr. Balakrishnan is a keen advocate for the technology.

“The procedure is complicated and should be used when all other alternatives are exhausted,” he says. “But used effectively, it can save hundreds of lives and we are willing to offer training to any institution that wants to implement ECMO in their Intensive Care Units.”

* The PLS system has been replaced by Cardiohelp in the UK