FISHERS, Ind. - Starting Wednesday, fire department paramedics in Fishers will use non-addictive laughing gas on patients when dealing with pain management at emergency scenes.
It provides another option to opioids, such as fentanyl, as a pain management method. Fishers say they are the first community in the state to provide this option, and one of only a few in the country.
"One of the things that we figured out is if we can take even a little piece of that out of the care for the patients that we deal with, that might be that one step that keeps them from becoming addicted," Fishers Fire Captain John Mehling said.
Across the county, the Hamilton County coroner said there were 36 overdose deaths last year, and around 22 so far this year.
"It really comes down to the number of overdoses that we respond. Fishers is not immune to that problem and we're trying to look at any and all ways that we can prevent people becoming addicted to opioids," Fishers Fire Captain John Mehling said
To be eligible for patients to be given this medication, they must be alert enough to administer the gas to themselves, under the supervision of a paramedic. It will take effect within 2-3 minutes, and when proper sedation has been given, the patient naturally drops the mask.
This may re-occur through the course of the ride to the hospital as needed. It is a portable system and can be brought to the patient's location.
The laughing gas, with the official name of Nitronox, is 90% effective in controlling pain and reduces anxiety.
“This is an effective and responsible adjustment to the care of our patients without the introduction of opiates into their system when possible,” Fire Chief Steven Orusa said.
Administrators for the department will be closely monitoring the effectiveness of Nitronox and will be providing information to St. Vincent Hospital and the State of Indiana EMS Medical Director.
Opioids will still be used in certain situations. Fentanyl was provided on 10% of 2017 transports. The fire department estimates the treatment change will reduce its use by 66 percent.