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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 September, 2003, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
Sheet could prove heart lifesaver
Shocksheet
The sheet is wrapped around the lower body
A simple inflatable sheet could save some of the thousands who die every year from heart attacks, says its inventor.

Many people who suffer cardiac arrest outside hospital die before they get there.

Dr Mark Wilson believes that his "Shocksheet", wrapped around the lower body, could help some of them.

It works by raising blood pressure in the top half of the body, reducing tissue damage in the brain and heart.

As soon as the heart stops, the brain and other organs stop getting the supply of oxygen-rich blood they need to keep vital cells alive.

Even cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques only give the brain between 10% and 15% of the oxygen it needs.

The device works in a similar way to the "G-suits" worn by pilots to maintain blood flow to the brain when performing aerobatic manoeuvres that push it into the extremities.

Instant action

The idea is that it would be carried in the back of an ambulance, thrown around a heart attack victim as soon as paramedics arrive, and instantly inflated using a compressed air cylinder.

The increased pressure around the legs pushed blood upwards, which improves blood flow to vital organs in the upper body.

So far it has only been tested on healthy volunteers, not on heart attack patients, but Dr Wilson, an anaesthetist in at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, is confident that it could make a difference.

He told BBC News Online: "I believe that it has a lot of potential to save lives.

"We know it raises blood pressure, but this is in normal healthy people, so I am hoping it can be tested on heart attack patients."

The research could also help other patients who suffer catastrophic falls in blood pressure, such as those hit be massive bacterial infections or anaphylactic shock.

The research was reported in the journal New Scientist.


SEE ALSO:
Home defibrillators on the way
14 Nov 02  |  Health
Public heart aids 'not worth it'
06 Sep 02  |  Health


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