Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Survival Rates After a Cardiac Arrest

If you're going to experience a cardiac arrest (complete cessation of a heartbeat), it's best to do it in Seattle.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) always seems to work on the medical TV shows. But in truth, the chances of recovering from a cardiac arrest aren't all that good. Outside a hospital the average survival rate of patients eventually treated by an emergency medical service (EMS) is less than 10%; even in a hospital it's only about 20%. Survival rates vary considerably depending on where the patient undergoes a cardiac arrest. In Detroit the survival rate is only 3%; in Seattle it's 20%, according to an article in the New York Times.

The four components of CPR are chest compression, ventilation (breathing for the patient), defibrillation (shocking the heart to get it started again), and epinephrine. The first two can be done by amateurs (passers-by) and can be fairly effective as a stopgap measure if done right. The latter two require EMS staff. And the key to improved survival seems to be better education of amateurs and training and monitoring of EMS staff. Seattle, for example, has a long history of an emphasis on CPR awareness and education of amateurs, combined with continual training and monitoring of the success of EMS staff.

Keys to good CPR are that it should be done vigorously and for longer than most people think. If you ever are in a position to try to save a patient while waiting for the EMS, don't stop chest compressions for longer than 10 seconds at a time while searching for a pulse, and don't give up too soon. Cardiac compression can be tiring for the resuscitator, but an hour of compression rather than just 15 minutes can sometimes save a patient.

If you're not trained in CPR yet, you might consider taking a basic CPR training class. The Red Cross and the American Heart Association offer them on a regular basis.

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