Exiting an elevator, a man crumples to the floor just outside the elevator. You, an innocent bystander, freeze. Then, you see the glass case on the wall with the heart and lightening decal. Whether or not you reach for that case and open it is a life or death decision for the stranger lying at the elevator doors.
The survival rate for individuals who experience a sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital is a mere five percent. Time is crucial. Chances of survival drop by 10 percent for every minute that passes without someone performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or using an automated external defibrillator (AED).
"AEDs are very simple to use, and they must be used very quickly," said Kevin R. Wheelan, M.D., chief of staff, Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, Dallas, TX, and an electrophysiologist. "If an AED is used within the first two minutes, a person's chances of survival go up to more than 30 percent."
AEDs are increasingly available in public locations, such as office buildings, airports, gyms and libraries.
During October, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness month, Baylor is providing free-to-the-public AED demonstrations at several North Texas high school football games.
Quick action CPR or the use of an AED is critical for a person who experiences sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital to survive. Symptoms of sudden cardiac arrest include -- sudden collapse and unconsciousness, with no pulse or breathing. Fatigue, shortness of breath, fainting, dizziness, heart palpitations, and vomiting may occur before the onset of sudden cardiac arrest.
The Heart Rhythm Society advises the following actions in response to a potential sudden cardiac arrest emergency: 1. Know the signs of sudden cardiac arrest in order to react quickly. Sudden cardiac arrest strikes immediately and without warning. Victims will fall to the ground/collapse, become unresponsive, and will not breathe normally, if at all. 2. Call 911 as soon as possible. 3. Start CPR as quickly as possible. Bystanders should provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast (approximately 100 beats per minute) in the middle of the victim's chest, with minimal interruptions. 4. Use an AED if one is available on site.
"AEDs are very simple to use," said Dr. Wheelan. "The machine gives verbal instructions, and once pads are attached to the chest, the AED does the rest of the work."
People who smoke, have high cholesterol or an enlarged heart, or have a family history of sudden cardiac arrest are at increased risk for a sudden cardiac arrest episode.
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