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When doctors are attempting to save the life of someone who has suffered a heart attack, they do a better job if they use a free iPhone app developed to brief them through procedures and drug dosages, according to a recent trial.

"Every year approximately 30,000 people in the UK have an unexpected cardiac arrest in hospital and, despite significant advances in resuscitation research, survival rates for adults suffering a cardiac arrest remain poor," says Dr Daniel Low, consultant anaesthetist.

Low and his colleagues found that one of the main problems in cardiac arrest situations – where doctors are under severe time pressure and may be outside their personal specialist comfort zone – is the matter of getting drug dosages right. The amount of adrenaline or other drugs to be given varies according to the situation and the patient, and the numbers vary from time to time based on the latest research – much as the recommended techniques for ordinary cardiopulmonary resuscitation by first-aiders have altered bewilderingly over the years.

To deal with this, Low and his colleagues developed an iPhone app dubbed iResus©, which is distributed by the UK Resuscitation Council for free. The app is very fast to use and is always updated with the latest information (provided the iPhone running it has a data connection).

To find out whether the app was effective, Low and other medics involved in the project carried out a trial. They recruited 31 doctors at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, all of whom had had advanced resuscitation/life-support training within the last four years. The docs were split into two groups: roughly one-third of them already owned iPhones and these fanboi and fangirl medics were split equally between the two groups.

The two groups were then put through a simulated cardiac arrest emergency and their performance was graded on a scale known as the CASTest scoring system. The trial group were armed with iPhones running iResus, and the control group had no smartphones.

The Jesus-phone-packing docs found it significantly easier to bring their simulated patients back to life after their hearts had stopped, scoring an average of 84.5 (out of a possible 100) on the CASTest as against the primitive smartphoneless medics who scored just 72.

Low regards this as a firm endorsement of his app's lifesaving properties.

"More than 60,000 free copies of the iResus© application have already been downloaded," he enthuses, "and a healthcare professional recently told us that they had used it when they were involved in an out-of-hospital paediatric emergency. Being able to refer to paediatric drug doses they were unfamiliar with helped them to save a child's life."

The UK Resuscitation Council says:

We would like to see this guidance in the pockets of all doctors and healthcare professionals. Currently it is in the top 10 medical apps.

There's no Android or Windows Phone version, however.

You can read all about the hospital trial here courtesy of the journal Anaesthesia. ®

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