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Cardiac arrest survival is possible, provided help is given immediately. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must be given in order for the blood and oxygen to continue flowing to the heart and brain, and prevent organ break down. There are only about five minutes after a person suffers cardiac arrest in which to act before brain death, followed by permanent death, occurs.
An electric shock to the heart, a process called defibrillation, can reverse a heart attack if given within a few minutes of the event. The shock can restore a normal heartbeat, but there is little chance of cardiac arrest survival if neither CPR nor defibrillation is given ten minutes after the heart has stopped beating. In cases where help is given in time, the survival rate is as high as 45 percent. It is estimated, however, that only five percent of victims survive a heart attack, with the remainder dying before they reach a hospital.
Death from a sudden heart attack can be avoided if family, friends or bystanders know what to do. Reacting quickly, calling emergency services and performing CPR until professional help arrives could save the victim's life. When the heart stops beating, no blood reaches the organs; this is something that impacts the brain first, as without oxygen the brain cannot function. Once the brain is no longer in control of the body, all of the organs begin to break down, which then leads to cell death.
It has been found that bystanders are reluctant to give CPR to people they do not know, as it involves putting their mouths on a dying stranger's. For this reason, a compression-only CPR was devised, where the mouth-to-mouth part of CPR was replaced by chest compressions only. The technique is considered just as or even more successful, and it is thought that if people were educated to use the technique, then cardiac arrest survival would be more likely.
The installation of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in public places is another initiative aimed at improving the odds of cardiac arrest survival. AEDs give electric shocks to the heart. Modern devices are portable and fully automated so no training is necessary before they can be used. Cardiac arrest can occur suddenly and without warning, so the more the general public is educated about emergency procedures, the more the numbers of sufferers who can survive an attack will increase.