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American Heart Association's "Chain Of Survival" Increases Odds Of Surviving Cardiac Arrest

Christine O'Kelly
Apr 22, 2008
Imagine being in a train station and the person next to you suddenly slumps to the ground. Would you know what to do? The American Heart Association reports that effective bystander CPR, provided immediately following cardiac arrest, can double a victim's chance at survival. But CPR is only one link in the Chain Of Survival the American Heart Association recommends for treating a victim of cardiac arrest.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death among adults over the age of 40 in the United States and other countries with more than 250,000 people dying each year from cardiac arrest in the US alone. Because of these statistics, it is important that citizens learn the Chain Of Survival when dealing with a life-and-death cardiac emergency.

Early Recognition

Cardiac arrest is basically when a person's heart stops working. Warning signs include changes in breathing, loss of consciousness, loss of pulse and drops in blood pressure. Many times cardiac arrest is coupled with a heart attack. Therefore, the American Heart Association also recommends knowing the subtle signs of a heart attack as well. These include chest discomfort, shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body or even nausea and lightheadedness.

It is essential when cardiac arrest occurs to recognize the symptoms and realize that it is truly a medical emergency. If there are several people nearby, have someone immediately call 911. The sooner medical assistance arrives, the better chances the victim has of survival.

Early Bystander CPR

Bystander administered CPR saves hundreds of lives every day. A person's brain starts to die 4 to 6 minutes after cardiac arrest. The proper administration of CPR not only prolongs the victim's brain life, but also increases the amount of time an electric shock from a defibrillator will be effective. The American Heart Association reports that if bystander CPR is not provided, a sudden cardiac arrest victim's chances of survival fall 7 percent to 10 percent for every minute of delay until defibrillation.

Early Defibrillator

Although it is an important link in the chain, CPR alone is not enough in most cases. It acts to buy life-saving time until a defibrillator is either located or arrives on the scene with paramedics. The American Heart Association states that when CPR and defibrillation are provided within eight minutes of a cardiac arrest episode, a person's chance of survival increases to 20%. When these steps are provided within four minutes and a paramedic arrives within eight minutes, the likelihood of survival increases to over 40%.

Early Medical Intervention

The quicker advanced life support can be administered by health professionals, the better the outcome for the victim. That is why this is the fourth and final link in the Chain Of Survival. The first link in the chain is to call 911 for help immediately. The next two steps involve bystanders trained in first aid or CPR to administer as much help as possible until medical staff arrives. As stated above, when a victim receives early CPR it extends the window of opportunity that the paramedics have to do their job.

Each component in the chain is essential to ensure the best outcome for a victim of sudden cardiac arrest. The more people who complete CPR and first aid training, the better chances we all have of surviving a cardiac arrest episode.
About the Author
Christine O'Kelly is an author for Annuvia, a company that provides businesses and other organizations with customized safety, emergency response, CPR training, and health/wellness solutions designed by healthcare and emergency response professionals.
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