What kind of steps should we take when someone suffers from cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest is an emergency medical condition in which a sudden, drastic decrease in the heart’s blood supply interrupts and causes the heart muscles to stop working. Cardiac arrest is also known as sudden cardiac arrest. The victim often becomes unconscious and may stop breathing, and the victim may die in a matter of minutes without emergency treatment. The condition is potentially reversible if treated within minutes by an automated external defibrillator (AED). Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is more common in older people and men, with the highest incidence occurring immediately following exertion.
The initial steps we should take when someone suffers from cardiac arrest.
1. Give CPR
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a procedure that combines compressions of the chest with rescue breathing. CPR helps provide oxygen to the victim’s blood and keeps their blood circulating until medical help arrives. The chest compressions push on the heart, forcing it to beat.
2. Use an AED
AED (automated external defibrillator) is a device that analyzes the heart rhythm and tells a person whether the heart has gone into ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia. If so, it then offers a series of voice prompts to give clear directions on what to do next, including when to press the emergency buttons and when to deliver a shock. It provides direct visual feedback on whether the wonders are being paid correctly.
3. Keep Pushing
Continue to give chest compressions until the person is breathing or medical help arrives. After someone has been given a shock from an AED, do CPR until help arrives. Alternate between 30 chest compressions and two rescue breaths. Repeat this until a defibrillator is available or the person responds.
4. Check for Breathing
Gently tilt the person’s head back. Look, listen and feel for breathing, which will be deep and regular. If the person is breathing, or if breathing has started again, continue with CPR. If there is no breathing, give rescue breaths.
5. Perform Rescue Breathing
Make sure the person’s airway is clear. Tilt the head back by lifting the chin with one hand, and place your mouth over their mouth. Pinch the victim’s nose closed with your thumb and forefinger. Please take a deep breath and seal your lips around their mouth. Slowly breathe into the victim’s mouth until you see their chest rise. This will take about one to two seconds per breath, so be patient.
Note: If you have to breathe into a small opening, such as a baby’s nostril, use only one hand to seal around the baby’s mouth while you breathe into the mouth with your other hand on top of it.
What causes cardiac arrest?
Cardiac arrest can occur for several reasons, including heart attack, electrocution, and drowning. More than 90% of all out-of-hospital arrests are caused by ventricular fibrillation (VF), which occurs when the beating of the lower chambers of the heart becomes disorganized and chaotic. The disorder leads to a lack of blood supply to the brain, resulting in unconsciousness and death within minutes.
It is most common in people over 75 years old and often occurs in patients who have just been diagnosed with a heart condition. A type of cardiac arrest known as pulseless arrest occurs when the heart has stopped beating, but the brain is still alive and functioning. It usually results from something like an overdose of medication, shock, or bleeding that has caused fatigue to the heart’s electrical system, such as a sufferer who has fainted from medical anesthesia.
Ventricular fibrillation can also be caused by things that aren’t related to heart disease, like:
- Suffocation or choking.
- A large amount of blood is lost, such as in a hemorrhage.
- Allergic reaction.
- Drug overdose.
What are the symptoms of a cardiac arrest?
Signs of cardiac arrest include:
- Chest pain or discomfort (about a quarter of all cases).
- Irregular heartbeat (a fifth).
- Chest swelling or wheezing (typically around one in five).
- Ineffective breathing (80% of all cases).
A person who has gone into cardiac arrest often calls for help before losing consciousness and may be able to cough or kick. If the heart doesn’t start beating again early, the person will become unconscious but stay alive. Because people’s bodies can go into what is known as asystole after some time, that period depends on the environment and position they have been placed in.
A person who has previously suffered a cardiac arrest will be:
- Not breathing
There may be some irregular heartbeat remaining, although this is not a key sign of survival. The person may still have a pulse, but it will be fragile. In most cases, death occurs within 10 to 20 minutes. CPR can help people who have gone into cardiac arrest to avoid death by providing a blood supply to the brain and heart muscles that are still working. This can buy time for paramedics or emergency workers to arrive and begin treatment.
What is the treatment for cardiac arrest?
A cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that, if not treated swiftly with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation, can be fatal.
If a person has gone into cardiac arrest, immediate CPR should be started. This involves giving the victim chest compressions and rescue breaths. It can take anywhere from a few seconds to a minute for a person to go into cardiac arrest. Still, if someone has been given an electric shock from an automated external defibrillator (AED), it will often be restarted within a minute.
The cardiac arrest victim should be defibrillated or shocked as soon as possible. If a person has had an AED administered, that shock will have brought the heart back to an effective rhythm (VF or V-tach), although even after a surprise, the heart may have slowed down and become dependent on its electrical system. Once CPR has been started, rescue breaths should be given twice to the chest and four times to the abdomen.
If a survivor is not breathing and has not had an AED administered, CPR should be started immediately while giving rescue breaths three times to the chest while ignoring other areas of the body.
3. Electrolyte Imbalance
Electrolytes are chemicals inside the body vital for good health and functioning. They maintain the water balance in cells, carry electrical messages between nerves and organs, and help muscles contract. If too many or too few of them exist in the body (outside of a normal range), it can be life-threatening. Electrolytes are essential when giving CPR, as they help ensure a person’s blood pressure improves.
In the event of a cardiac arrest, every effort should be made to remove the cause and provide assistance to the victim. In many cases, this means surgery. If this is not possible, then a supportive structure should be put in place immediately to help maintain blood pressure and provide oxygen to the body. This may occur through cardiopulmonary bypass (CAB), which can help prevent blood clots from forming if there is a bleed in the heart.
A person who has just gone into cardiac arrest should be encouraged to exercise as soon as possible. This can help the heart to recover, but it is essential if they have an underlying heart condition.
Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that can occur anytime, including during sleep. If a person goes into cardiac arrest, immediate CPR should begin. This requires people to give chest compressions and rescue breaths to the victim while also checking their pulse and breathing. CPR will help keep blood circulating in the body while they are being treated.
Approximately 4% of people who have sudden cardiac arrest survive, so proper CPR is vital for everyone who suffers from heart disease or has serious heart problems. However, studies have shown that 30-40% of people who have experienced sudden cardiac arrest do not receive proper CPR within the first six minutes, despite the wide availability of defibrillators in hospitals and public places.
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