Sudden cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest remains a leading cause of death in the Western world. Although the average age is around 70, sudden cardiac arrest can strike even the young and athletic. The majority, 95% of all patients, die before they reach the hospital. Unfortunately these figures have not changed throughout the years. If advanced care is readily available, maybe as high as 25-30% of all patients could survive.
When the heart stops pumping
Cardiac arrest – or “clinical death” – occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops pumping and the blood circulation halts. The patient quickly becomes unconscious, without any subsequent breathing or pulse.
As high as 70% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests are caused by cardiac events. There is however a wide range of other events that can cause a cardiac arrest; for example drowning, asthma, anaphylactic shock or traffic accidents.
The chain of survival
Sudden clinical death can be reversible if the patient receives immediate care and the cause of the arrest can be found and treated appropriately. The rescuer should call for help and immediately start chest compressions to sustain blood flow to the patient's brain. An early shock from a defibrillator device can potentially restart the heart’s pumping function. This together with advanced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) provided by swift-acting paramedics and followed by attentive hospital care are an integral part of the rescue activities that are called the chain of survival.