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An AutoPulse® is an electronic device designed to deliver high quality chest compressions in order to increase the likelihood of resuscitation for a person in cardiac arrest. It is, in other words, a mechanical cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) piece of medical equipment used to deliver cardiac support and sometimes is referred to as a cardiac support pump. The device is used primarily by emergency medical technicians and paramedics who work in emergency medical services (EMS) systems in which its use is defined by protocols or is permitted or required via standing orders.
The AutoPulse® is used by aligning the patient on its platform, securing a chest band across the victim's chest and pressing a start button to activate automatic chest compressions. The emergency workers continue to provide artificial ventilation manually while using the AutoPulse®, just as they would do in the case of performing manual chest compressions. Recovery of spontaneous respiration and the patient's pulse rate is rechecked after two minutes of CPR, and the emergency personnel also check to see if a shockable rhythm is present.
There is controversy regarding the use of the AutoPulse® and other mechanical CPR devices because of the disturbing results of field tests that have been conducted. This is part of the reason why not all EMS systems endorse or allow its use; other reasons are related to the very high expense involved for systems to make use of the device. Field tests that have been conducted reveal that the percentage of patients in cardiac arrest who survived until admission into a hospital was higher when the AutoPulse® was used instead of performing manual CPR compressions. A significantly lower percentage of patients treated with the AutoPulse® instead of manual chest compressions did not survive to be released from the hospital, however.
A desire to deliver high-quality chest compressions was not the only motivation for the development of this piece of medical equipment. The delivery of manual CPR, particularly to an adult patient, is extremely demanding physically. If the emergency rescuer becomes exhausted, he or she might fail to perform the quality of chest compressions needed to produce a strong pulse, and this failure would decrease the patient's chances of resuscitation. Taking into consideration that there are times when a rescuer must work alone in the back of an ambulance, some support the use of mechanical CPR devices. Others, however, strongly reject the use of this and any other medical equipment that appears to lower a patient's chances of surviving to be discharged from the hospital and to live as normal a life as possible.