The collapse of a young healthy adult in the workplace or on a football field, or the collapse of a senior family member at home are not uncommon events. Out of hospital cardiac arrest remains the most common cause of death worldwide. Up to thirty thousand Australians have a cardiac arrest each year, and about 90% of them die. Currently less than half of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in the community have someone step in to do CPR or use an AED before an ambulance arrives.
The ability of bystanders to perform CPR while waiting for the ambulance is critical to survival and positive patient outcomes.
During cardiac arrest, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body, including the brain and lungs. After 1 minute, brain cells without oxygen begin to die and death can happen in minutes without treatment.
CPR uses chest compressions to mimic how the heart pumps and helps keep blood and oxygen flowing and dramatically increases the chances of survival in those who suffer a cardiac arrest. If CPR is commenced in the first few minutes after someone collapses the chance of survival dramatically increases.
Anyone without extensive medical training can help by knowing these simple steps.
The first step is simply noting that someone may be in cardiac arrest. The Australian Resuscitation Council recommends that bystanders should suspect cardiac arrest and begin CPR whenever a person is unresponsive and not breathing normally. Faster recognition of cardiac arrest will also lead to a quicker triple zero call, speeding up the arrival of ambulance personnel.
Bystanders can further help a cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival by also using an AED. Multiple research papers have shown the benefits of having AEDs accessible for use by members of the public. For example, a 2018 study of more than 50,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests found that 66.5% of patients who were treated with an AED by a bystander survived, compared with 43% of patients who were shocked only after emergency services arrived. This highlights the benefits of quick action from bystanders.
Someday, you may be faced with an emergency, chances are the patient will be someone you know, either at home or in the workplace. Knowing how to perform CPR and how to use an AED are essential life skills that everyone needs.