In the UK there are more than 30,000 cardiac arrests a year, outside hospitals. On another hand, less than one in ten victims survive to be discharged from hospital. When someone has had a cardiac arrest, each second counts. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) tries to ensure more people survive a cardiac arrest.
Here are some steps that someone witnessing a cardiac arrest can take:
- Calling emergency numbers (999)
- If a person is trained, they may perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and/or use a PAD (Public Access Defibrillator)
CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is an emergency procedure performed in an effort to manually preserve brain function, until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest. It is used on those who are unresponsive with no breathing or abnormal breathing (for example, agonal respiration).
CPR alone is unlikely to restart the heart. Its main purpose is to restore partial flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart. The objective is to delay tissue death and to extend the brief window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage. Administration of an electric shock to the subject’s heart, termed defibrillation, is usually needed in order to restore a viable or “perfusing” heart rhythm. Defibrillation is effective only for certain heart rhythms, namely ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, rather than asystole or pulseless electrical activity. CPR may succeed in inducing a heart rhythm that may be shockable. In general, CPR is continued until the patient has a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) or is declared dead, or until there is no rescuer physically able to continue (CPR can be exhausting).
In a poll conducted for the BHF in September 2014, 47% of people said they had received formal CPR training. On another hand, only 29% said they would be confident performing CPR on a loved one, family member or friend. Also, only 22% would be confident performing CPR on a stranger.
One effective way to ensure that as many people as possible know how to perform CPR is to teach them at school. Research has shown good skill retention among young people who are taught at a young age. Young people may also share what they have learnt with family and friends.