Stop deaths from cardiac arrest with computer-controlled balloon, says new startup

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Currently trending in the latest startup news is Habib Frost. In April 2013, final-year Danish medical student Habib Frost was called out to an emergency: a four-month-old girl had just suffered cardiac arrest. Frost’s team tried defibrillation but to no avail. Immediately after, the team was called out again: another case of cardiac arrest, this time a woman in her 30s. Once again, Frost was powerless to save her life.

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“I felt devastated,” he says. “I knew I was not meant to let myself be affected to such a degree, but I could not give my very best the next day.”

Cardiac arrest is one the leading causes of death worldwide, killing around 7 to 10 million people every year. This condition can have many underlying causes, such as coronary atherosclerosis, which occurs with tissue plaque builds up and clogs the arteries that feed into the heart. “There are a great number of underlying mechanisms that can trigger a cardiac arrest, such as an airway obstruction, a metabolic imbalance, a drug overdose, a critical bleeding, a collapsed lung,” says Frost. “Prevention is important but unfortunately not enough, as even healthy adults can experience the sudden onset of cardiac arrest.”

Computer-controlled balloon stops death

During cardiac arrest, the heart starts beating with an erratic rhythm. As a result, very little blood is flowing throughout the body. Without blood supply, different organs start dying out at different rates. The brain starts deteriorating after 15 minutes, whereas the liver and kidney can last up to two to three hours without blood supply.

Current emergency procedures — like chest compressions and defibrillation — can partially replace the blood flow but, more often than not, are ineffective: only one out of ten patients are saved.

“I knew that I wanted to do something about this, but I did not know what,” Frost says. In his last semester of medical school — Frost graduated at the age of 23, becoming the youngest doctor in Denmark — he invented Neurescue, a small computer-controlled balloon catheter that can be used during CPR. The catheter is inserted into the femoral artery in the leg and moved to the main artery of the body, the aorta, which descends from the left ventricle of the heart down to the abdomen. There, the balloon is inflated, obstructing the artery.

According to Frost, this approach can greatly improve the survival rate. Whereas chest compressions can prolong the life of the patient for an average of half an hour before there’s damage to the brain, Neurescue can extend that window to a maximum of two hours.

Frost is currently running safety tests on the device to comply with regulatory medical approval. The startup has raised $4.75 million and expects to run the first pilot tests in a few European hospitals next year.

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