Cutting Edge EMS Technology

SAVES_deviceWEB_t670  SAVES gets a new video laryngoscopy device. Click here for more.

Skaneateles — Skaneateles Ambulance Volunteer Emergency Services has become the first ambulance service in Onondaga County to purchase a new video-enhanced laryngoscopy device to be used outside a hospital setting.

The Glidescope Cobalt AVL (Advanced Video Laryngoscope) allows paramedics to more easily and more quickly establish airways in patients having difficulty breathing (intubate) by projecting the patient’s vocal chords and trachea on a video screen rather than visualizing with the naked eye.

“This device is beneficial in many ways, but basically you simply cannot put the tube in the wrong place with this,” said SAVES Executive Director Jeff VanBeveren. “Having this tool in our bag of tricks will benefit our patients incredibly.”

The cost of the device was $14,228, which will be paid out of the SAVES fiscal year 2012 budget.

As anyone who has watched hospital dramas like “ER” now knows, intubating patients is a typically necessary action in cases of respiratory distress and severe multi-system trauma, such as cardiac arrests and car accidents.

Tracheal intubation is the placement of a flexible plastic tube through the vocal chords and into the trachea (windpipe) to maintain an open airway or to serve as a channel through which to administer certain drugs. Insertion is typically aided by use of a laryngoscope, a rigid instrument that moves the tongue and epiglottis out of the way to allow paramedics a direct view of the top of the larynx.

The Glidescope Cobalt AVL has a real-time video camera on the end of tube that allows paramedics to visualize the intubation procedure on a nearby video screen.

“This allows us to not have our face quite so close to a patient’s face, which helps prevent blood borne pathogen and other contaminations, and it prevents the danger that you could pass the tube into the esophagus, which only fills the stomach full of air and not the lungs,” VanBeveren said. “This device is nearly 100-percent successful and will definitely prove to be much quicker.”

SAVES became aware of the Glidescope Cobalt AVL after its medical director, Dr. David M. Landsberg, a critical care physician at Crouse Hospital, saw the device purchased and utilized at Crouse and suggested that SAVES look into it.

“I’ve been to number of trade shows and seen devices similar to this and always thought it looked like a good buy, but we’ve never really had the money,” VanBeveren said. “So the salesman came out and gave us the pitch and I was immediately sold on it. Everything he said about it was true. I could see it was clearly going to be a worthwhile expenditure for the organization.”

But change is sometimes hard to accept, and some of the SAVES volunteers who have been doing the traditional intubation technique for decades at first scoffed at the idea of the new device. But once they trained on it they were impressed that it is so much faster and more productive, VanBeveren said.

The ease of using the Glidescope is also beneficial to SAVES in particular because, as a small ambulance service with about 900 calls annually, they only perform from 12 to 30 intubations per year. This makes it difficult to keep the volunteers (especially the part-timers) trained in the technique, VanBeveren said.

SAVES personnel have been training on the device although it has not yet been used in the field, VanBeveren said.

When it is ready for field use, the Glidescope will be placed in each day’s “prime” ambulance (SAVES has two ambulances), to which one of the three full-time SAVES personnel is always assigned, VanBeveren said.

Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at editor@skaneatelespress.com