The 67-year old Vice President will be undergoing an outpatient procedure — an electrical shock — to restore his normal rhythm today at George Washington University Hospital.
You’d think with a Vice President with a history of heart trouble and so many Americans suffering from chronic heart disease and sudden cardiac episodes, the Food and Drug Administration would get around to approving safe, reliable medical devices like the cardiopump.
The cardiopump, manufactured by Ambu International of Denmark, is a modest device. It weighs a mere pound and a half and looks like a modified toilet plunger, with a pliable cup that fits onto the heart-attack victim’s chest and a combination hand- grip/pressure gauge instead of the wooden handle. Manual CPR exerts downward pressure on the chest, but the chest has to re- expand naturally. The cardiopump can apply pressure in both directions. Says Dr. Jeffrey Shultz of the University of Minnesota: “It turns the chest into a bellows. It allows you to pull blood back into the heart and air back into the lungs.”
Despite being approved abroad in countries such as France and Israel and showing promise in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the government has stonewalled action for so long that the manufacturer is no longer pursuing regulatory approval. So the next time you feel that tell-tale tightness in your chest, thank the FDA for one less tool that doctors could have used to save your life.