Monday, May 13, 2024

EMS Equipment - Mechanical Chest Compression Devices

EMS providers should be familiar with the LUCAS (Lund University Cardiopulmonary Assist System) device and similar mechanical chest compression devices as they can significantly impact the management of patients in cardiac arrest. 

Here are some key points regarding both advantages and disadvantages:


Consistency: Mechanical chest compression devices like LUCAS can provide consistent and uninterrupted compressions, ensuring that the quality and depth of compressions are maintained throughout resuscitation efforts. This consistency is often challenging to achieve with manual compressions, especially during prolonged resuscitation attempts.

Reduced Fatigue: Manual chest compressions can quickly lead to provider fatigue, resulting in decreased effectiveness over time. Mechanical devices alleviate this issue by delivering continuous compressions without fatigue, ensuring that high-quality compressions are maintained for extended periods.

Standardization: Mechanical devices offer standardized compression rates and depths, reducing the variability that can occur with manual compressions performed by different providers. This standardization helps optimize perfusion during cardiac arrest and improves outcomes.

Safety: Mechanical devices reduce the risk of injury to EMS providers during transport and resuscitation efforts, particularly in challenging environments such as moving ambulances or confined spaces where manual compressions may be difficult to perform safely.

Multitasking: By automating chest compressions, EMS providers can focus on other critical aspects of patient care, such as airway management, medication administration, and team coordination, without compromising the quality of compressions.


Cost: Mechanical chest compression devices like LUCAS can be expensive to purchase and maintain, potentially limiting their availability in some EMS systems. The initial investment in these devices and ongoing maintenance costs should be considered when evaluating their implementation.

Training Requirements: Proper training is essential for EMS providers to effectively use mechanical chest compression devices. Training should include device operation, troubleshooting, and integration into resuscitation protocols to ensure optimal patient outcomes.

Device Limitations: Mechanical devices may not be suitable for all patients, particularly those with certain anatomical characteristics or injuries. EMS providers must be aware of the device's limitations and know when manual chest compressions may be more appropriate.

Interruptions: Although mechanical devices aim to provide continuous compressions, interruptions may still occur during battery changes, device malfunctions, or transfer between care providers or settings. EMS providers should be prepared to quickly address and minimize these interruptions to maintain effective resuscitation efforts.

Patient Considerations: Some patients may experience discomfort or injury from mechanical chest compressions, such as rib fractures or skin abrasions. EMS providers should assess each patient's condition and adjust device settings or techniques accordingly to minimize potential harm.

Overall, mechanical chest compression devices like LUCAS offer several advantages in the management of patients in cardiac arrest, including consistency, reduced provider fatigue, standardization, safety, and the ability to multitask. 

However, EMS providers must also be aware of the associated disadvantages, such as cost, training requirements, device limitations, interruptions, and patient considerations, to ensure appropriate and effective use in clinical practice.

Further Reading:

Bledsoe, B. E., Cherry, R. A. & Porter, R. S (2023) Paramedic Care: Principles and Practice (6th Ed) Boston, Massachusetts: Pearson

Frascone, R. J. (2014) The Risk Versus Benefit of LUCAS: Is It Worth It? Anesthesiology 120: 797–798

Peate, I. & Sawyer, S (2024) Fundamentals of Applied Pathophysiology for Paramedics. Hoboken, New Jersey:  Wiley Blackwell

Vitali (2022) The Lucas Device Explained Accessed May 12, 2024

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