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Emergency cardiovascular care is a set of medical interventions used to restore functioning of the heart and lungs. It typically consists of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), intravenous fluids, medications, and close monitoring of the patient’s vital signs. In some cases, it can also include defibrillation and respiratory support through an oxygen delivery system.
The primary goals of emergency cardiovascular care are to restart a heart that has stopped beating; control a dangerously erratic heartbeat and open up collapsed or blocked airways so the patient can breathe. A properly beating heart and open airway passages are essential to the survival of the patient. Once these factors are under control, doctors and surgeons can assess the contributing factors to the issue and determine the best course of treatment.
The first step in performing emergency cardiovascular care is assessing patients to determine if he or she is breathing and has a pulse. This is extremely important because performing CPR on a patient that doesn’t need it can be extremely dangerous. Emergency medical personnel are trained to assess patients in the field quickly, and this step shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. CPR is best performed by someone who knows the technique, but in emergencies, any effort is better than no effort.
If a patient’s heart has stopped beating and CPR is not working, emergency medical personnel may use a defibrillator to shock the heart back into rhythm. It is imperative that no one is touching the patient during defibrillation, which is why the person using the device yells “clear” as an indication to others to stand away. Compressions are usually performed immediately after the shock is delivered. Some patients may require more than one cycle of defibrillation and CPR.
Once the patient’s heart is beating again, further emergency cardiovascular care may include use of intravenous fluids or medications to keep the patient stable until further medical care can be given. Medications are also used to control an erratic heartbeat or to stop or slow down the progression of a heart attack. There are numerous different types of emergency cardiovascular medications, and the treating physician will determine the best one for the patient’s needs.
Rescuing a person from choking is another part of emergency cardiovascular care, as choking indicates compromised airways. The most common procedure is the Heimlich, a procedure designed to force the obstruction from the airways. This procedure can cause damage to the ribs and is best performed by someone who knows how to do it. In other cases of airway constriction, oxygen delivery devices may be needed to help the patient breathe.