Everyone should now the warning signs of cardiac arrest and how to react to the situation that just may save a life. During cardiac arrest the victim loses consciousness but also stops normal breathing. The victim has no pulse and no blood pressure. The most important reaction to recognizing the cardiac arrest symptoms is to call 9-11. The second reaction is to immediately give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to help keep the cardiac arrest victim alive until emergency help arrives. CPR keeps blood and oxygen flowing to the heart and brain until defibrillation can be administered by the paramedics when they arrive on the scene. The amount of time of the arrival of the paramedics can be in few minutes or much longer. The CPR should continue until the paramedics do arrive.
Definition of cardiac arrest
Cardiac arrest is the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function. There may have be no prior warning of heart disease and there could be death (sudden death) occurring in minutes.
Causes of cardiac arrest?
Coronary heart disease is the main cause. The electrical impulses in the diseased heart become rapid (called ventricular tachycardia) or chaotic (called ventricular fibrillation). Both ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation can occur separately or both at the same time. This irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. Other causes of cardiac arrest are respiratory arrest, electrocution, drowning, choking and trauma. Cardiac arrest can also occur without any known cause.
Cardiac Arrest Symptoms
* Often preceded by heart attack symptoms – These symptoms are widely ignored which contributes to the occurrence of cardiac arrest.
An important point is that a heart attack is not the same thing as cardiac arrest.
* Stoppage of the heart
* Loss of consciousness
* Loss of breathing
* Absent pulse
The reality of cardiac arrest
Time is of the utmost importance because brain and permanent death begin in 4 to 6 minutes after the cardiac arrest. If an electrical shock (defibrillation) can be administered within a few minutes the heart can be restored to a normal heartbeat. An important statistic to consider is that a victim’s chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation. Brain death and permanent death start to occur in just 4 to 6 minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can be reversed if it’s treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. This process is called defibrillation. Another statistical fact is that resuscitation usually fails to succeed after 10 minutes have passed.
Survival of Cardiac Arrest Statistics
The exact number cardiac arrests that occur each year is unknown but estimates that 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital is very sobering. Cities that provide defibrillation within 5 to 7 minutes have survival rates as high as 30-45 percent. Recently airlines and corporate buildings are beginning to have portable defibrillation units available to immediately provide defibrillation when a victim begins to show cardiac arrest symptoms. Hopefully the future will show improvements in the survival rates.
What can be done to increase the survival rate?
Early CPR and rapid defibrillation combined with early advanced care can result in high long-term survival rates for witnessed cardiac arrest victims.
1. Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) mounted in plain view in everyday locations.
2. Bystander CPR initiated more consistently. Recently the CRP method was modified to just pumping the chest and not alternating breathing to the victim.
According to the American Heart Association, if every community could achieve a 20 percent cardiac arrest survival rate, an estimated 40,000 more lives could be saved each year. It is everyone’s duty to recognize cardiac arrest symptoms and be able to bring emergency assistance to the victim. Saving someone’s life is the ultimate reward for possessing such knowledge.