With an assist from the Elmbrook Memorial Foundation, the city of Brookfield Fire Department has been appreciating the availability of a new piece of equipment in recent months.

Last October, the department began using the LUCAS Chest Compression system. The system is designed to administer CPR to patients in need of resuscitation.

"It's basically just a plunger that's doing compressions," Lt. Chris Cass said. "It provides that consistent compression rate. It's basically a piston that just goes up and down."

While the technology itself may appear simple, Cass noted that there have been predecessors to the LUCAS system in the past that have not been as impressive to him and his colleagues.

"At first, the guys were a bit skeptical. We went through training and I could tell the guys were a little bit skeptical about it," Cass said. "Our first call that we ended up working with it was I believe on Halloween. Word got around really quick, the guys really liked it."

One of the benefits of the LUCAS system is that it frees up one extra person to be doing other tasks rather than administering CPR.

"It creates a little less stress for everyone because it frees up people to maneuver furniture around, talk to the family about what's happening," Cass said.

Elmbrook Memorial Hospital director of emergency services Kathleen Henley said that the device can also be seen as filling the shoes of even more than one person at times, as it removes the need for paramedics to swap out.

"You're supposed to switch compressors every two minutes and if you only have two people switching out, those two people really can't do anything in between because you're just waiting for your next turn," Henley said. "This really does, in that situation, it does the job of two to three people."

The Elmbrook foundation purchased two LUCAS systems at approximately $15,000 each. One is kept in the fire department's command unit and the other is at the hospital.

"It doesn't matter which station is responding, that piece of equipment will respond if it's needed," Henley said. "Our plan is that if they bring someone in with the device deployed on a patient we have another one that can go right back out with them."

So far, the department has used the LUCAS system on 14 patients and achieved resuscitation in six instances.

"It appears that we're trending kind of the same (as traditional CPR), but we've only been using it for a few months and the numbers are too small to tell," Cass said. "Typically we've been close to 50 percent."

The LUCAS system features a couple of advantages compared with traditional CPR, including a suction cup that pulls the patient's chest up into compressions. In addition, it has two settings, depending on where paramedics are in the process of providing an airway for patients.

"It will do 30 compressions and then it will beep and pause for you to give the two breaths," Cass said. "Then, once we have an advanced airway in them, we just continue compressions."

Cass said that the LUCAS system is not necessarily a traditional piece of equipment for all departments to have, but he would not be surprised if it gains popularity.

"It's not standard yet, but you're starting to see more and more of them," Cass said.

Both Cass and Henley noted that the system makes transporting patients to the hospital safer for everyone, as it requires less people to be standing and maneuvering around inside a moving ambulance.

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