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Staying Alive - The Importance of CPR in Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Monday, 11 March 2013  |  Paul

Staying Alive - The Importance of CPR in Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is an indiscriminate killer with a dismal survival rate of between 5 and 7%. Whilst half the victims are elderly and over the age of 67, SCA can strike younger victims, including those appearing to be in excellent health, athletes and even young children. Sudden Cardiac Arrest is the leading cause of death worldwide and is responsible for over 150,000 deaths a year in the UK alone. 

The Resuscitation Guidelines of 2010 state that the optimum treatment for SCA is immediate good quality cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and electrical ‘defibrillation’ delivered using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). 

Case in point Fabrice Muamba, the Bolton football player who collapse during the 2012 FA Cup Quarter Final between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspurs. The game was stopped and immediate action was performed on-pitch. Fabrice Muamba later described his recovery as “more than a miracle.” This really shows the importance of immediate action of CPR. 

What causes Sudden Cardiac Arrest? 

The heart has it’s own electrical system which controls the rhythm of your heartbeat. Defects within the electrical system can cause abnormal rhythms, commonly known as arrhymias. Arrhythmias cause the heart to beat irregularly or sometimes stop altogether, the most common of which is ventricular fibrillation (VF). 

Sudden Cardiac Arrest occurs when the electrical system of the heart stops working effectively - the heart will unexpectedly stop pumping, when this occurs, blood stops flowing to the heart, brain and other vital organs and within seconds, the victim collapses and becomes completely unresponsive. Death will occur if not treated within the first few minutes. 

What does CPR do? 

·         Increases systolic pressure (blood pressure) throughout the circulation system. 

·         Evacuates blood from a distended heart. When a victim collapses, the arteries stop moving blood around the body, but the veins continue to deliver blood to the heart for a further 4 to 5 minutes so that the heart becomes distended (filled with blood which has nowhere to go). Even if the heart is in ventricular fibrillation (VF), it needs CPR to evacuate the blood it has filled up with before a shock can be effective. 

·         Moves oxygenated blood to the brain. Helps reduce brain damage, keep the victim alive longer and also leads to improved quality of life if the victim survives. 

·         Moves oxygenated blood to the heart. This is the most important and vital part of CPR! Resuscitation requires two things; shocking the heart and delivering blood to the heart. 

The Importance of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) 

Many think defibrillation actually restarts the heart, this is not so; the fibrillating heart requires the shock to stun the heart, briefly stopping the heart’s chaotic electrical activity that led to SCA. Once defibrillated, if the heart is still viable, normal electrical activity may resume typically after a significant period of time when good quality CPR has been performed, thus contributing to a successful outcome. 

The provision of AEDs in the work place and wider community has been rapidly increasing over the last few years and it is estimated that there are over 10,000 deployed across the UK. The technology used in AEDs has made them easy to use with a minimal amount of training. The real issue is however whether or not the AED will advise a shock at the time when you are going to use it and equally as important if you are able to deliver the high quality CPR required for a prolonged period of time. 

Basic life support and advanced life support professionals can use the Zoll AED PRO Semi Automated External Defibrillator With Manual Override. This product as many key features including the Real CPR Help, which gives the user real time feedback. For example if your compressions aren’t firm enough it will tell you “PUSHER HARDER”, it will also tell you when you are giving “GOOD COMPRESSIONS”. 

The British Heart Foundation has recently launched a campaign to inform people of what to if someone has Sudden Cardiac Arrest.A cardiac arrest is different from a heart attack. If you have a cardiac arrest, you lose consciousness almost at once and there are also no other signs of life such as breathing or movement. This is an emergency and if you witness a cardiac arrest you should call 999 immediately.