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A new type of CPR board is shown in this undated computer rendering. A new piece of medical equipment created at the University of Alberta may help doctors find a quicker way to resuscitate patients who go into cardiac arrest due to COVID-19. The novel coronavirus can create complications in the lungs, and many patients are placed on their bellies to improve ventilation.

HO/The Canadian Press

A new piece of medical equipment created at the University of Alberta may give doctors a quicker and safer way to resuscitate patients who go into cardiac arrest because of COVID-19.

The novel coronavirus can create complications in the lungs and many patients are placed on their bellies to improve ventilation.

“The lungs get so bad, we put them into these prone positions,” Matthew Douma, a registered nurse and an assistant adjunct professor of critical care medicine at the university, said Monday.

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Many patients with severe COVID-19 go into cardiac arrest, Mr. Douma said, and doctors have to turn them onto their backs to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR. That makes it risky for doctors, who are exposing themselves to COVID-19 as the patient faces them.

“Many health care providers are not used to taking care of people in these positions,” Mr. Douma said.

There may also be a delay in the help patients may need, because doctors have to first flip them over onto their backs.

“The more that you delay, the less likely your patient is to survive.”

Mr. Douma said the concerns kick-started research at the Edmonton university in July into the best way to perform CPR while a patient is in a prone position.

The result was a new CPR board that can be placed between a mattress and patients on their stomachs. A protruding piece of the board, near the breastbone, adds pressure to the chest area while medical staff do compressions on the backs of prone patients.

Mr. Douma said lab tests on the board showed a 40-per-cent increase in the number of effective chest compressions on mannequins in that position.

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“It’s filled a gap,” Mr. Douma said. “We didn’t have this. We didn’t know what we would do in a cardiac arrest on a prone patient should the situation arise.

“Now, knowing that there’s a tool available, it’s made us feel more prepared. By doing early, high-quality chest compression, we’re able to give the patients the best chance of survival.”

Edmonton and Calgary hospitals haven’t had enough severe cases for doctors to yet use the board, but about 10,000 people have already downloaded its design, Mr. Douma added. At least five hospitals in Brazil are using it.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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