If the person next to you went into cardiac arrest, could you save their life?

 abc.net.au  2/13/2018 2:01:11 AM 

One minute they're walking along and talking, the next they're on the floor, not breathing and with no pulse. And what you do over the next 10 minutes will be the difference between life and death.

Each year in Australia about 20,000 people have a cardiac arrest out of hospital, but only 10 per cent of these people will survive.

A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops pumping. This means your brain is quickly starved of oxygen, you become unconscious and stop breathing.

It takes only three minutes for brain damage to set in and within 10 minutes the person has usually died. In most cases the ambulance will not make it in time.

A new video aims to educate otherwise untrained Australians on how to help someone in cardiac arrest.

The new video, set in the world of the TV show Rake, is the brainchild of Royal Hobart Hospital chief cardiologist Dr Paul MacIntyre, who couldn't find anything showing hands-only CPR and how to use an AED alongside Australian emergency services details.

Having untrained bystanders able to provide first aid is vital because people in cardiac arrest can die so quickly, Dr MacIntyre said.

How to save a life:

  • Call triple-0 and yell loudly for help (both with the CPR and to locate the nearest automated external defibrillator)
  • Start "hands only CPR": push hard and fast with the heel of your hand in the centre of the person's chest
  • Aim for around two chest presses a second (pressing to the beat of the Bee Gees hit Stayin' Alive is a good guide)
  • Keep doing it until someone comes. Don't stop. Most people run out of steam after about two minutes, so keep yelling out for backup while doing compressions
  • When an AED arrives, attach pads to the person's chest. The machine will give out voice instructions to tell you what to do
  • Once you've shocked the heart to restart it, continue CPR until breathing resumes or the ambulance arrives to take over

"Any attempt at resuscitation is better than no attempt, and that's what potentially saves lives."

Having the confidence to use an AED where there's one available was also critical, Dr MacIntyre said.

"Anyone can use an AED, [the machine] talks you through it," Dr MacIntyre said.

Studies have shown defibrillation within three to five minutes can produce survival rates as high as 50 per cent to 70 per cent.

Defibrillators are increasingly installed in public places, such as schools, sports clubs, shopping centres and public libraries.

Some states, such as South Australia, now have a public register of defibrillators to help you find the nearest one to you.

Cardiac arrest or heart attack?

Both a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are medical emergencies involving your heart that require immediate treatment, but they are not the same thing.

A heart attack occurs when there's a blockage in an artery leading to your heart:

  • Heart muscle begins to die due to reduced blood flow, and therefore oxygen to the muscle
  • Can cause permanent damage to the heart and can be fatal
  • Heart usually doesn't stop beating, unless your heart attack causes a cardiac arrest
  • Technical terms are coronary thrombosis (a clot in a coronary artery) or myocardial infarction (meaning damage to the heart muscle)
  • A heart attack is a life-threatening emergency. Call triple-0.

A cardiac arrest is an electrical malfunction:

  • The heart's rhythm is disrupted and it stops pumping blood around your body
  • Brain, lungs and other vital organs are starved of oxygen due to lack of blood flow, so you soon lose consciousness and stop breathing
  • Death within minutes without emergency treatment
  • A person in cardiac arrest will have no pulse and won't be breathing. Call triple-0 and start CPR immediately.
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