AUG 29, 2021 5:57 AM PDT

Bystanders Can Help Cardiac Arrest Victims Survive

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

New research has indicated that if someone is going into cardiac arrest, a swift response from someone nearby can help improve the chances of survival. In this study, people signed up as lay responders and used an app that tracked their location. If dispatchers got a call about cardiac arrest, they could check the app to see if lay responders could reach the victim faster than first responders. If so, the responders were dispatched to provide assistance by giving CPR or using an available defibrillator.

Image credit: Pixabay

This research analyzed the outcomes of 8,513 cardiac arrests. Lay responders were dispatched 3,410 times, and in 5,103 cases a lay responder wasn't called upon. When lay responders were activated, there was a 28 percent higher chance that CPR would be used, a 56 percent higher chance an AED would be used, and 28 percent increase in the thirty day survival rate for those in cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest happens when the electrical signals controlling the heart malfunction, the heart ceases to beat, and doesn't pump blood to the body.  A heart attack, which is when blood flow to the heart is blocked, can cause cardiac arrest. They may can cause death within minutes. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) involves chest compressions and breaths while automated external defibrillators (AEDs) deliver an electrical shock to the heart, which may restart it.

“Our study demonstrates the benefits of including the general public in the emergency response to a suspected cardiac arrest," said study author Dr. Martin Jonsson of the Karolinska Institute. "Every second counts in these situation and lives can be saved with rapid use of AEDs and CPR.”

In cardiac arrest, a person may be unconscious, unresponsive, and not breathing, gasping or breathing abnormally.

A heart attack will typically cause chest pains for fifteen minutes, which may be mild or severe; some people have no chest pain while others describe a chest heaviness. Pain or discomfort may spread to the shoulder, arm, neck, jaw, teeth, or back. Nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, fainting, or sweating are also signs of a heart attack.

If someone thinks they may be having a heart attack or cardiac arrest, call 911. It can be helpful for someone having a heart attack to chew and swallow aspirin, potentially reducing heart damage, as long as they have not been told by a doctor not to take aspirin or have an allergy.

If a person is unconscious, not breathing, or lacks a pulse, administer CPR, which involves pressing hard and rapidly on the chest, at about the beat of the BeeGees song "Stayin' Alive" or rouhgly 110 compressions per minute. The video above has CPR safety tips for the pandemic. Use an AED if one is available; the devices usually have instructions.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, European Society of Cardiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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