When someone collapses, suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), the most common cause is an abnormal rhythm of the heart called ventricular fibrillation. One misconception the general public has, which I’ve come to realize when teaching, is the belief that CPR used independently will restart the heart after a few minutes. After all, it is commonly what Hollywood portrays on television. The reality is that CPR performed by bystanders will save fewer than 5% of victims. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t even try. To put that in perspective, about 900 Americans suffer from SCA each day. If we are able to save 5%, that’s 45 lives saved in ONE day. Over a year that could be over 16,000 people saved in the United States alone. But we can do better!
Here’s how. Effective chest compressions play a vital role in effective lifesaving procedures for SCA victims. Chest compressions move the oxygenated blood to vital organs, such as the brain, protecting them from damage as a result of oxygen deprivation. However, what most people don’t understand is that those compressions are unlikely to get the heart beating spontaneously again. In order to get the heart back into a normal rhythm, we need to apply and electrical shock via a defibrillator (AED). To even better the chances for SCA victims, an AED should be applied to the victim within the first few minutes of collapse.
A common argument that I receive from people as to why they don’t need an AED onsite is, “the Fire Department is right down the road,” with the knowledge that they have defibrillators. What we need to understand is that each minute that passes the victims chance of survival sharply drops by 7-10%. Each minute. For arguments sake, let’s assume that when an emergency occurs the Fire Department is right down the road and are not tied up with another emergency enabling them to arrive in 4 minutes. Just because EMS responders are now on scene, doesn’t mean that the victims chance of survival is drastically better just yet. Remember, they still have to get to the victim, apply the defibrillator and deliver that first shock, possibly adding an additional 3 minutes. Now 7 minutes has passed, assuming you witnessed the collapse and called immediately. The harsh reality is that 7 minutes equates to their chance of survival being lessened by anywhere from 49 – 70%.
Most SCA events occur at home with the second most common place being the workplace. It is really important to get AED’s placed in work environments. They are very easy to use and more importantly, highly effective. If you’re interested in learning more about AED’s, please check out our AED Information and for purchasing information please check out our Zoll™ AED Sales page. We are also proud to provide top-notch AED training in Arizona.