Every year in the United States, approximately 350,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. When it happens, it sets in motion an urgent race against time that could result in an individual’s death within a matter of minutes.
“The problem with cardiac arrest is, time is your enemy,” explained Brian Webster, president and CEO of Kestra Medical Technologies in Kirkland. “Your heart is not beating in a regular rhythm; it’s therefore not allowing your system to produce blood that feeds oxygen to the brain. The chance of survival from cardiac arrest goes down by 10 percent per minute.”
Even more daunting is that more than half of the medical emergencies happen when a person is alone and at home, with nobody around to call 911 — and even then, it takes several valuable minutes for skilled paramedics to arrive and administer care via a defibrillator’s electric jolt to the heart.
For a long time, one of the best ways to improve your survival odds was by keeping Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs, in schools or offices. But even then, somebody must administer the AED, an impossible task if a person is alone when he or she experience sudden cardiac arrest.
Kestra Medical Technologies aims to improve the odds for cardiac arrest survival by creating a wearable defibrillator. Proprietary algorithms will monitor a patient’s cardiac health and detect if a patient is experiencing cardiac arrest. If that happens, the device will deliver a therapeutic dose of electricity to the heart.
Similar to an undergarment, the discreet wearable device would be washable and worn for several months.
Webster, who has worked in the medical device industry for 26 years, including 10 years as president and CEO of Physio-Control, the Redmond-based manufacturer of external defibrilators and monitors, thinks the device could be particularly helpful to patients who are already at risk for cardiac arrest, such as people who have suffered a heart attack and are poised to receive an implanted defibrillator, but must wait several months before undergoing surgery.
“They are at risk of having another serious event during that window,” Webster explained. “What we are trying to do is bridge them to that long-term care by protecting them during that vulnerable period. It’s not going to do away with the EMS guys or even the need for AEDs, certainly, because AEDs in the workplace are a great idea. But for those folks who are known to be at risk, we can protect pro-actively. It’s a fantastic solution.”
According to Webster, the company was started in August 2016, is financially backed by the private equity firm Bain Capital, and employs 90 people. The medical device is in the pre-clinical trial phase, added Webster, and the company expects to receive FDA approval and bring the device to market in the next 18 months.
“There are people dying who shouldn’t be dying,” Webster added. “They just shouldn’t be because we can protect them. We have the technology. We have the know-how. We are going to bring a product out that’s going to do just that.”