Sudden cardiac death claims the lives of more than 310,000 Americans annually and there are more than 166,000 Americans who experience and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year; on average, 25 of these occur in Springfield.

The chance that a victim of sudden cardiac arrest will survive is based on several key factors which are referred to as the “Chain of Survival” by the American Heart Association:

  1. Early recognition of the emergency: call 911!
  2. Early bystander CPR
  3. Early defibrillation (shock) by AED, if indicated
  4. Early advanced life support and post resuscitative care

Recognition of an emergency:

Many victims of sudden cardiac arrest were unaware that they had underlying heart disease.

Early symptoms of a heart attack often include some form of chest discomfort, often described as “heaviness” or “pressure” rather than actual pain.  This is often accompanied by profuse sweating and a feeling of being unable to catch your breath.  Some patients have more vague complaints such as a feeling of indigestion, nausea and vomiting,   Some people just experience pain between the shoulder blades, in the arm (usually the left), or in the jaw.  Women, elderly patients, and diabetics are those most likely to have atypical symptoms of a heart attack and are less like to experieince chest pain.

A victim of sudden cardiac arrest will be unconscious and will not appear to be breathing or moving.  If the person does not wake up after attempting to awaken them with shouting and gently shaking, immediately call 911.

The importance of early bystander CPR

When someone experiences a sudden cardiac arrest, the heart is no longer pumping oxygen to vital organs, including the heart and brain.  Irreversible brain injury starts to occur within only a few minutes.  If pumping action is not restored within 10 minutes, the chance of survival is very small.

Bystander CPR buys time!!!  By immediately starting chest compressions, you can help the heart and brain receive much needed oxygen until help arrives from our EMS services.

The importance of early defibrillation

When someone has a cardiac arrest, often they have an underlying abnormal heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.  These patients need an electrical shock called defibrillation to stop this rhythm and allow a normal heart rhythm to occur.  The sooner the victim receives this shock, the better the chance of survival.  For this reason, public access defibrillation programs were initiated, which places AEDs in the community.

An AED is an automated external defibrillator which is meant for easy use by non-medically trained individuals.  There are many different types of AEDs, but they all operate on the same principles.  If a victim of sudden cardiac arrest receives immediate CPR and an AED is available, the chances of survival improve dramatically and can be as high as 70%!  Unfortunately, the success of an AED depends on how much time has elapsed from onset of the arrest.  The good news is that chest compressions can extend the time that an AED can be successful.

Although the outcome for a witnessed cardiac arrest in a public place can be good if CPR is initiated early, 75% of cardiac arrests occur in the home.  Therefore it is important for more community members to learn CPR to “buy time” until 911 arrives.

For more information email: communitycpr@springfieldems.com