By Douglas Buell
ARLINGTON – The Arlington Fire Department recently added new technology to its Emergency Medical Services toolbox that will help save lives.
With a $28,430 grant awarded by the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, the department’s two paramedic units will each be outfitted with a Glidescope, a portable video device that allows for quick, real-time views of airways in critically ill or injured patients on EMS calls.
“The Glidescope is a color video laryngoscope used to assist in intubation of patients,” said paramedic Matt Hickman, who wrote the grant. “ It is the most-effective and safe method currently available.”
Intubation is the process used to insert an endotracheal tube through the mouth and then into the airway to allow patients to breathe with less trauma.
Hickman said the process may seem simple, but requires years of training and experience to master. There are times when the intubation can be complicated by issues such as obesity, blood and vomit in the mouth, facial or swelling from burns.
Previously, the department used a device called a laryngoscope, a metal handle with a curved blade and light on the end. With the laryngoscope, it’s much harder to tell if the tube is placed in the correct position, Hickman said.
“The Glidescope provides a visual verification that the tube is in its proper place in the trachea that would not otherwise be available,” he said. The scopes are operational in seconds, have an anti-fog feature and support batons for adults and children.
Paramedic Chris Dickison said that, “Glidescopes are out there in the field and some agencies have them, but they’re quite expensive.”
Jim Rankin, retired Arlington fire chief and CVH Foundation president, was pleased they were able to award the grant. Their goal is to award grants aimed at good health care for the communities the hospital serves. “Any device that would increase the survivability of patients is good to have,” Rankin said. Inserting a tube in a patient to augment breathing is always difficult if you can’t see what you’re doing.
With this new device, he said, “Paramedics can get the device in quick, without any additional injury to the patient, and that increases the patient’s survivability.”
In addition to protecting Arlington citizen, they are the primary advanced life support units for Arlington Heights, Silvana, Oso and Darrington.
GlideScopes include a 5-by-4 inch color screen attached to a baton that has a camera on the end.
The baton goes into the airway and broadcasts the picture back to the screen, allowing the paramedic to see the airway, Hickman said. The controls on the scopes also enable medics to record video or screen shots when caring for a patient, which could reduce liability to the city.