Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) happens when the electrical signals that control the function of the heart become irregular, causing the heart to stop beating. If this happens to you, it means that blood is no longer being pumped around your body, and your essential organs – including your brain – are being starved of the important nutrients that they need to survive.
This type of cardiac arrest can happen suddenly. Without proper treatment, the victim’s body will quickly start to shut down and they could therefore die within minutes.
30,000 cardiac arrests occur out of hospital each year in the UK (350,000 in the US), which means medical professionals aren’t usually on hand to treat the victims. This means that the victims will have to be treated by first-responders or, more commonly, bystanders.
The only way to treat an SCA is through proper CPR and defibrillation using a device called an automated external defibrillator (AED). As SCA can happen to anyone at any time, it’s essential that everybody knows the proper steps in treating a victim.
What Should I do if Someone Near Me Suffers a Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
If you see someone collapse…
- Check their responses to see if they are breathing. If you can’t detect breathing, they may have suffered an SCA.
- Immediately phone the emergency services.
- The operator will give you step-by-step instructions on how to perform CPR. They will then tell you where the nearest defibrillator is located.
Once you’ve contacted the emergency services and you have clarified the victim is breathing, you need to begin CPR:
- Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone in the centre of the victim’s chest. Your other hand should be placed on top, with your fingers interlocked.
- With your shoulders positioned directly above your hands, press down five to six centimetres. You should use your bodyweight to do this.
- Keep your fingers interlocked and your hands on the victim’s chest. Their chest will then return to its original position.
- Repeat this process at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute. You should perform CPR until a defibrillator is located or the emergency services arrive.
If you have been fully trained in CPR and are confident in performing rescue-breaths, you should use this type of CPR instead. If you don’t feel confident doing this, use hands-only CPR.
If an AED (automated external defibrillator) is available, you should use it as early as possible, because this gives the victim the best chance of survival:
- Turn the AED on.
- Follow the visual or audio prompts given by the device.
- The AED will automatically advise you on when to stop delivering CPR. It does this so that it can monitor the victim’s heart rate.
- If a shock is needed, the AED will administer one. An AED won’t perform a shock on someone who is not suffering SCA.
- Continue with CPR between shocks until the emergency services arrive.
Why Bystander Training is Essential
Globally, sudden cardiac arrest remains one of the leading causes of death. It can happen to any person and can strike at any time. For each minute that passes, the chance of survival for the victim is reduced by 10%, but if defibrillation occurs within the first minute of a cardiac arrest, the victim’s chance of survival increases to 90%.
Although emergency services respond as quickly as possible, it isn’t always possible for them to arrive within this critical timeframe. Any person has the potential to be a bystander during a cardiac arrest, and with the proper training, hundreds of lives could be saved.
Watch this video by St John Ambulance to learn how to perform CPR on an adult.
This article is written by defibshop, the UK’s only independent defibrillator retailer. defibshop is working hard to ensure that businesses across the country are investing in their staff by purchasing defibrillators for their premises.