“All you need is courage“

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that, statistically, the chances of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest are much greater if the attack happens in a public place rather than in a private home. Over the course of two years, the study examined almost 13 000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in 10 communities around North America. At times, the survival rate in public was more than double that of incidents in the home.

The reason, says Dr. Laurie Morrison, is that those who suffer attacks in public while they’re out and about are generally healthier and the circumstances of their arrests are more survivable provided they receive timely CPR and defibrillation. At home, people tend to be less active and those who have sudden cardiac arrests (SCA’s) in this setting often suffer from underlying conditions that aggravate their arrests and make recovery more complicated.

The other reason is you and me: with more people around, SCA’s in public places are more likely to be witnessed by someone with the skills to help. The soft-spoken emergency physician and clinical scientist from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto says she encouraged by the growing public availability of defibrillators and went on to explain that “Bystanders can make a huge difference in survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. As long as they call 911, start CPR, and grab the automated external defibrillator. Just have the courage to take it off the wall.”

The trend in CPR training has been to find ways to simplify the procedure so that it is easier to remember in a crisis whilst still being effective. It takes very little training now to operate a defibrillator.

SCA’s kill about 50 000 Canadians each year. From a broad triage perspective, the good news is that most AED’s are in public places, so the defibrillators are getting to the most save-able victims. According to Dr. Morrison, in the last five years, the survival rate for cardiac arrest has tripled thanks to refined resuscitation protocols for firefighters and paramedics, but “now we‘re appealing to the public. We need your help. We need you to do bystander CPR and use an AED.”

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