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Sudden Cardiac Arrest – It happens quickly and without warning

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is one of the leading causes of death in the world, afflicting more than 340,000 people (7,000 are children) each year in the US and millions more worldwide. A victim’s best chance of survival is to receive treatment in the first few minutes of collapse, but fewer than 5% survive, because emergency medical services do not reach them in time. The American Heart Association estimates that increased access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year.

What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?

Sudden cardiac arrest means that the heart unexpectedly and abruptly quits beating. This is usually caused by an abnormal hearth rhythm called ventricular fibrillation.

Is Sudden Cardiac Arrest the same as a Hear Attack?

No. A heart attack is a condition in which the blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, resulting in the death of the heart muscle. Heart attack victims usually experience chest pain and typically remain conscious. Heart attacks are serious and sometimes will lead to sudden cardiac arrest. However, sudden cardiac arrest may occur independently from a heart attack and without warning signs. Sudden cardiac arrest results in death if not treated immediately.

How is Ventricular Fibrillation treated?

The only effective treatment for VF (ventricular fibrillation) is an electrical shock called defibrillation. Defibrillation is an electrical current applied to the chest. The electrical current passes through the heart with the goal of stopping the VF and giving an opportunity for the heart’s normal electrical system to take control. This current helps the heart reorganize the electrical activity so it can pump blood again. An automated external defibrillator (AED) can defibrillate the heart.

What is an Automated External Defibrillator or AED?

It is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient, and is able to treat them defibrillation the application of electrical therapy which stops the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to reestablish and effective rhythm.

AEDs are designed to be simple to use for the layperson, and the use of AEDs is taught in many first aid, first responder, and in CPR/AED classes

How does and AED work?

A microprocessor inside the defibrillator interprets (analyzes) the victim’s heart rhythm through adhesive electrodes (pads). The computer analyzes the heart rhythm and advises the operator if a shock id needed. AEDs advise a shock only for ventricular fibrillation and fast ventricular tachycardia. The electric current is delivered through the victims’ chest wall thought the adhesive pads.

Why are AEDs important?

AEDs strengthen the chain of survival. They can restore a normal heart rhythm in sudden cardiac arrest victims. Small portable models allow more people to respond to a medical emergency where defibrillation is required. When a person suffers a cardiac arrest, for each minute that passes without defibrillation, their chance of survival decreases by 7-10 %. AEDs save lives

What is Public Access Defibrillation?

Public access defibrillation (PAD) is the strategy of making AEDs available in public/and or private places with large numbers of people gather or are at high risk. You can learn more about Public Access Defibrillation from the American Heart Association.

Should I do CPR first or apply the AED?

Do CPR only until the AED arrives. Apply the pad to the patient’s bare chest and follow the voice prompts and messages of the AED. It will tell you when to resume CPR.

If defibrillation is so important, why should I do CPR?

CPR provides some circulation of oxygen rich blood to the heart and brain. This circulation delays both the brain death and the death of the heart muscle. CPR is a support measure and buys time until the AED arrives and can make the heart more likely to respond the defibrillation. Defibrillation is the only definitive therapy for cardiac arrest

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