Heart Emergency Survival Rates – Why AEDs Need to Arrive STAT!
We all know that in emergency situations, we need to react fast. The longer a person does not receive immediate medical attention, the quicker their survival rate will drop. It is for this reason that we get trained in first aid and other lifesaving skills, so we can help right away until 911 responders arrive. This is especially important for heart emergencies and life-threatening incidents, where CPR and the use of an AED are needed.
The order goes:
- Call 911
- Ask someone to get you an AED
- Do everything you can to help.
We know that we need to jump into action, but do we actually understand why? Take a look at why AEDs need to arrive to these heart-related emergencies STAT, and the survival rate of each emergency.
Heart Emergency – Heart Attack
Contrary to popular belief, a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are two very different things. A heart attack occurs when blood flow is blocked suddenly and is no longer bringing oxygen to the heart. It is then that the person will begin to experience symptoms such as:
- Tight chest
- Shortness of breath
- Pain or discomfort
- Dizziness and nausea
Many people will express that they do not feel good when in actuality they are having a heart attack. It is these crucial moments when symptoms are present that 911 should be called and someone should retrieve an AED (just in case). The person may be conscious, able to speak, and able to move around, but it is these next few moments that could be the deciding factor for life or death.
Heart Attack Survival Rate
Unlike a cardiac arrest, with a heart attack, the person is still alive. Of course, immediate attention is required – calling 911 or getting driven to the hospital is the first step towards increasing your survival rate. Medical personnel can administer medication and treatment to remove the blockage and improve blood flow once again. According to the CDC, “Only 27% [of Americans] were aware of all major symptoms and knew to call 9-1-1 when someone was having a heart attack.”
On the other hand, the longer you wait to seek medical attention, the more likely this heart emergency will turn deadly. According to VeryWellHealth.com when help is beyond the first “five or six hours the amount of heart muscle that can be saved drops off significantly. After about 12 hours, the damage is usually irreversible.” Additionally, if a heart attack is not treated quickly, it may even lead to a cardiac arrest which reduces the survival rate drastically. It is when a heart attack becomes a cardiac arrest that you hope the AED has arrived and can be used STAT!
Heart Emergency – Cardiac Arrest
Whereas a heart attack is blocked blood flow to the heart, a cardiac arrest involves an irregular heartbeat – also called an arrhythmia. When someone experiences a cardiac arrest, within the first few seconds (roughly 20 seconds according to VeryWellHealth.com) they become unconscious, stop breathing, and their heart begins to beat sporadically. This random heart rhythm makes it impossible for the brain and body to receive the oxygen it needs to survive – every minute leading to brain death. The symptoms of a cardiac arrest include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Shortness of breath (often recognized by strange wheezing/gasping sounds)
- Chest Pain
- No pulse
- No breathing
As soon as you recognize these symptoms it is detrimental that action be taken right away. Surviving a cardiac arrest has nothing to do with what the patient can do and everything to do with what the first responder can do.
Cardiac Arrest Survival Rate
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, in Canada the survival rate of a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital is 5%. When a person has gone four to six minutes not receiving any oxygen to the brain, permanent brain damage is highly likely. It is in these few minutes that an AED should be already brought to the emergency location, attached to the patient, and shocks be administered to get the heart back into a normal rhythm.
The survival rate beyond 8-10 minutes of not receiving proper attention and not getting the heart beating regularly again is rare. As a first responder, you have a responsibility to act as quickly as possible if you want to save the casualty. Immediately call 911, tell someone nearby to bring you an AED, STAT!, and begin CPR compressions and breaths (or compressions only option) to keep blood flowing (and avoid further brain damage) while you wait.
CPR should be continued until the AED arrives, medical professionals arrive, or the person becomes conscious once again. One of the biggest mistakes that can be made is giving up too early. Stranger things have happened, and even when a person has been unconscious and not breathing for many minutes, miraculous things have occurred when CPR has continued – keep going! Another common problem in these situations is when the AED is too far away. It is these precious minutes used to retrieve the defibrillator that could be the cause of a death. This delay can only be rectified when AEDs are majorly accessible in every location and easy to attain (do you have one at your home and office?).
How You Can Help in a Heart Emergency to Increase Survival Rates
The truth is that heart emergency situations can happen anywhere, to anyone, of any age. It is scary, but that is why it is so important that we do everything we can to prepare and help. Want to get ready to assist in these types of emergencies? Here are a few things you can do:
- Take a First Aid course to learn CPR and how to use an AED.
- Be aware of nearby AED locations among your daily routine.
- Purchase an AED for your location.
- Speak to your boss/supervisor/building manager to get an AED.
- Download the PulsePoint App.
- Participate in the #FindAnAED Campaign.
- Share AED awareness with your family/friends/coworkers/neighbours.
Every second is precious when it comes to heart emergency survival rates. The faster we can act and retrieve an AED, the better chances that person has to survive. Know how to help and you could give the ultimate gift this year – the gift of a life!