Rochester Regional Health doctor speaks about Damar Hamlin’s medical care on the field

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills’ safety Damar Hamlin is still in critical condition after he suffered a cardiac arrest on the field during a Monday night game at the Cincinnati Bengals stadium. Doctors are still working to determine what caused Damar Hamlin’s cardiac arrest.

News10NBC spoke with Dr. Scott Feitell, the Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and Heart Failure at Rochester Regional Health, he credits the Bills medical staff for its swift response. As fans and teammates watched in horror, the Bills’ medical team jumped into action. It’s reported they started chest compressions immediately and were eventually able to get Hamlin’s pulse back.

Dr. Feitell says there are a number of things that could have triggered the cardiac arrest. There are rare cases where a blunt force trauma to the chest can cause an arrhythmia which is an abnormal heart rhythm, that can cause cardiac arrest. There are also genetic factors that can make someone predisposed to an arrhythmia and competing at a high-level may also be a factor that plays a role in these cases.

Right now, it’s too soon to know. The next 72 hours, according to Dr. Feitell, will be crucial in understanding the extent of Damar Hamlin’s injuries and what his recovery might look like.

Many fans saw the ambulance sitting on the field for what felt like a very long time Monday night, here’s why:

“Anytime CPR is initiated you generally do not want to mobilize or move that patient until you resuscitate them until you’ve got the return of a pulse,” Dr. Feitell says, “everything else can be done on route through the ambulance, they can place an IV, they can administer medicines but the bulk of CPR is really the chest compressions, making sure that you actually are achieving adequate circulation with those compression and so, I think they took their due diligence and were doing everything they could to make sure they had his pulse before they actually tried to lift him up in the ambulance and get him to the hospital.”

The only silver lining, according to Dr. Feitell, is that Hamlin’s cardiac arrest happened when medical staff and trained paramedics were just feet away.

“Early CPR by bystanders can increase survival exponentially, for every minute of downtime you expect about 10 to 15% risk of brain trauma or injury from lack of oxygen to the brain so, early intervention with CPR is paramount to survival in these cases,” he says.

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As for what happens next, “generally speaking if someone came in with an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest whether it was televised or we knew nothing, there’s a certain bundle-of-care we provide for the post-cardiac arrest patient and it’s pretty standardized throughout the country,” Dr. Feitell says, “when the heart can’t pump blood obviously we’re worried about the brain but there’s other organs that need blood flow as well so I’m sure the team there is looking at his kidneys, his liver making sure that all of his other organs are responding appropriately and making the necessary interventions if they are not.”

While family, friends, teammates and fans wait for an update on his Hamlin’s condition, Dr. Feitell has this advice.

“I will tell anybody that’s a fan of the Bills, that cares about human beings, to go get CPR training so heaven forbid you’re in a situation where someone’s heart stops, you know what to do and you know how to respond and you can actually save someone’s life.”

If you’re interested in taking a CPR course: