Best Breakthroughs

Many people don't realize how lucky they are to live in the Madison area - where the best medical breakthroughs are saving lives every day.

Faye Langum is lucky to be alive.

She was falling out of bed every night - because of sleep apnea.

Faye says, "I had no idea, except that I was exhausted all the time."

Luckily, she never seriously hurt herself or anyone else.

But the sleep deprived are responsible for thousands of fatal accidents on the road - among other things.

But research right here in Madison is taking an unprecedented close look at the sleeping brain.

The brand new UW-Meriter sleep disorders facility - "Wisconsin Sleep" - is the only one in the world with the capacity to perform high-density EEG in all of its patients.

Dr. Mary Klink says, "When you come in to have a sleep study you have 6 electrodes in your head, when you come in for high density EEG you have 256 electrodes."

The possibilities are endless, including a better understanding of the strong link between sleep apnea and heart disease.

"With untreated sleep apnea there is roughly double the risk for heart attacks and strokes."

Faye is just one of thousands whose blood pressure and risk for heart attack - plummeted after her diagnosis.

The second breakthrough is all about saving the heart.

The heart attack death rate here of 3% is much lower than the national average of 7% for a good reason.

Tools such as the new rooftop helipad at St. Mary's hospital, just one part of the major effort to get heart attack patients through the door faster.

It's called "Level One" at St. Mary's - with similar programs at all 3 Madison hospitals.

Here's how it works:

If someone has a heart attack 50 miles away, the medical staff there are trained to identify who needs to be transferred to Madison for life saving angioplasty ... while the staff in Madison assembles for their arrival.

The third breakthrough involves cardiac arrest, essentially a "seizure" of the heart.

It's called "Cool Guard" - and Medflight is the ONLY helicopter service in country using it for all cardiac arrest patients.

That's because the biggest risk is brain injury - and it's too often fatal.

But UW Medflight responders are putting people on ice to stop it.

First responders literally pack a patient in ice until they can get this new device inserted back at the hospital.

"So were after not only improving survival rates, but improving neurologically intact walk out of the hospital go back to your job enjoy your life survival rates."

There's endorsement by all three Madison hospitals to use hypothermia for cardiac arrest.

And the way they're working together on heart attack patients arrival times is something rare in most cities in this country.


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