Unlike a heart attack, a sudden cardiac arrest happens when your heart stops pumping blood around your body, due to an electric malfunction. In the UK there are over 30,000 cardiac arrests a year outside of hospital, where emergency responders attempt to resuscitate the victim. Sadly the survival rate is low. (1)
The crucial piece of medical equipment that can be the difference between life and death is a defibrillator.
A cardiac arrest can be seriously life threatening. The most common cause of a sudden cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation (VF).
VF happens when the electrical activity in your heart becomes chaotic and the heart stops pumping blood and instead quivers. (1)
The reason why someone might suffer from a cardiac arrest lies with problems with your heart or other underlying medical conditions such as, coronary heart disease, heart attack, cardiomyopathy, congenital heart disease, acute myocarditis or heart valve disease. Conditions such as having an abnormal heart rhythm could also be a contributing factor.
Understanding the initial signs and symptoms can help you act as quickly as possible.
Here are the signs and symptoms of a sudden cardiac arrest:
Sudden loss of responsiveness. If the patient is not responding either verbally or physically they may be suffering from a sudden cardiac arrest. Immediately call 999, shout for help and try to locate an AED if available. (3)
Check Breathing. If the patient isn’t breathing you will need to give CPR. Continue to give CPR until paramedics arrive or a defibrillator is found.
A defibrillator will shock the patient’s heart to regulate their heartbeat.
In the event of a sudden cardiac arrest the only treatment is fast CPR and defibrillation. If the victim medically deteriorates resuscitation may be essential.
It is crucial that you call 999 before you attempt to locate a defibrillator, as this may take time.
Public use defibrillators are often located in places that attract a large amount of people, such as stadiums, train stations, airports and places of work. 5% of all Sudden Cardiac Arrests happen in the workplace, that’s 100 people every week in the UK. (4)
If you are able to locate a public use defibrillator, switch the device on immediately and follow the spoken instructions.
Caervest, a medically cooling vest can also be used to treat sudden cardiac arrest patients. The medical breakthrough device immediately induces rapid, early therapeutic hypothermia, in order to reduce tissue damage following a loss of blood perfusion after a cardiac arrest. The device aims to prevent further damage to the patient and can be used whilst defibrillating the patient.(5)
Leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent a sudden cardiac arrest. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet, staying physically active and not smoking will help you to reduce your risk of any different medical issues and diseases.
If you have a heart disease or condition which might make you more vulnerable to heart attacks or cardiac arrests, your doctor might recommend you monitor your health at home to keep an eye on your physical wellbeing and flag up any issues before they get worse.
Some people who believe they are at high risk of a sudden cardiac arrest may keep an automated external defibrillator at home in case of a medical emergency.
Mayo Clinic recommend those living with people of high risk should be training in CPR and be aware of where a defibrillator is located. Their website states that ‘Being trained will help not only your loved one but also those in your community. The more people who know how to respond to a cardiac emergency, the more the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest can be improved.’ (6)
Openhouse is a leading defibrillator & equipment supplier, visit www.openhouseproducts.com/defibrillator-equipment-supplier for more information.