Carotid massage: a possible new cardiac resuscitation procedure

In our current resuscitation procedure for unconscious patients, we rationalize that by compressing the chest wall, we also compress the heart and the major arteries in the chest cavity, resulting in some arterial blood flow to vital organs like the brain. In the past, this procedure was called “cardio-pulmonary resuscitation”, but I believe we now feel the pulmonary component is unnecessary and omit it from the acronym.

On one of the TV channels this morning, which just happens to be Christmas Day 2014, it showed how apes were able to successfully resuscitate one of their own after the ape had been electrocuted on railway tracks rendering him unconscious on a railway platform below. As the startled passengers at the station looked on, with no one willing to come forward to offer first aid, one of the apes on the railway platform decided to take over.

The video showed how this non-human first aid worker first tried dipping their relative in puddle of water found between the tracks. When that was unsuccessful, he began what seemed to be a biting-like manoeuvre on the side of the neck. He continued this for 20 minutes.

As I looked more closely at this Youtube video which was shown on repeated broadcasts, it appeared to me that the ape may actually be applying pressure to the carotid artery or massaging it to move blood forward.

Could this is a more effective way of getting arterial perfusion passively to the brain than with the method we now use, namely compression of the chest wall?

Could our distant cousins the apes be giving us, their more advanced cousins, a special Christmas gift? A better CPR technique than the one we currently are using?

This approach may be worth further study. I vaguely seem to recall a lecture from my undergraduate medical study days (over 55 years ago) that there may be a collection of nerves in the carotid artery (a node) which if massaged can restart the heart beat. I must look this up on the internet. If I do find it I will post another blog with an update.

Incidentally, if carotid artery massage and/or whatever you want to call this procedure is found to be more effective, there would be no need to change the acronym – just substitute carotid for cardiac.

Cardiac Research at St.Boniface Hospital Research Foundation

Recently in the Winnipeg Free Press (December 13, 2014), two half page ads highlighted the research of principal investigators at the St.Boniface Hospital Research Foundation to “…lessen the impact of heart attacks…”. For more details on the research and goals of these scientists at this research centre, readers were directed to a website.

My comments:

1. It is a very opportune time for the foundation to place these ads during the festive season when people are in the mood of buying gifts. I hope their drive for funds is very successful.

My other 2 comments are maybe not so complimentary.

2. The reader will notice that the upper half of one of these pages contains an ad for purchasing liquor. Probably not the wisest decision made by the newspaper editors.

3. My third comment relates to an international symposium entitled “Free Radicals in Health and Disease ” which was held on October 1985 at the A. Cohen auditorium of the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

The three main organizers for this symposium included the University of Manitoba, the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation and the Kildonan Institute of Gerontology – the latter a private not-for-profit research foundation that I founded in 1987. As the medical director of this foundation, I was pleased that we were able to successfully invite and sponsor for this symposium Dr. Denham Harman, a professor at the University of Nebraska and the “father of Free Radical Pathology”.*

About a decade later in the mid 1990’s our private foundation dissolved basically for lack of funds. Our equipment was donated to the St.Boniface Hospital Research Foundation in the 1990’s, but my knowledge and expertise in the field of cellular gerontology did not accompany this donation, although I personally made the request at the time of the donation as well as on several subsequent occasions.

It is however somewhat gratifying to at least see that some of the research at St.Boniface Hospital Research Foundation is being directed to free radical pathology. However now at the age of 87 I often reflect on “what if” I had the opportunity to work at this research centre, which I was willing to do gratis.

* Dr. Denham died on November 25, 2014 at the age of 98 without receiving the Nobel prize, even though he was nominated some 6 times.