Why defibrillators save lives?
Each year in Britain around 30,000 people are struck by sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospital environments. They can affect anyone at any time – from young children at school, to adults when they’re at home, work or out in public places.
If victims aren’t treated properly, more often than not, cardiac arrests are fatal. The British Heart Foundation’s figures show that only one in ten victims survive. There are a couple of reasons for this sorry figure – namely the lack of education and training.
This article outlines just how big of a difference defibrillators (AEDs), alongside effective CPR, make in the survival rate of victims during this critical time, and the steps people are taking to raise awareness of the issue.
Before we begin, let’s dispel a common misconception.
The difference between cardiac arrest and heart attacks
A heart attack is when the supply of blood to a part of the heart stops, causing a part of the heart muscle to die. A cardiac arrest is when the heart, as a result of an electrical failure, stops beating completely.
This post focuses completely on the latter.
How many people actually die from cardiac arrest in the UK each year?
The figures below really underline the horrific impact cardiac arrests have on victims, especially the families of young children who suffer an attack.
- 12 people under the age of 35 die each week from sudden cardiac arrest
- 270 children die from sudden cardiac arrest suffered on school premises
Of the the 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest alluded to at the start of the post, 80 per cent happen at home and another 20 per cent occur in public places where, due to a lack of proximity to defibrillators, the victim is at most risk of death.
Whenever cardiac arrest strikes, there is absolutely no time to lose.
Every minute without CPR and defibrillation reduces a victim’s survival rate by 7 to 10 per cent
They’re that important.
Without immediate treatment, 90-95 per cent of cardiac arrests prove fatal
The three stages of reaction to a sudden cardiac arrest are outlined here. Obviously, the quicker everything is done, the more chance there is of saving a life.
What should you do if sudden cardiac arrest happens?
- Call 999
The emergency services should be immediately alerted to the problem. Once they have been called, CPR should be administered as soon as possible, if it hasn’t been already.
- Start CPR
The emergency services will be on their way and you should be starting CPR, but now’s the time to look for a nearby defibrillator.
- Look for a defibrillator
With any luck, there will be one near you. For maximum accessibility, they’re most common in public places such as train stations, shopping centres, airports and leisure centres.
Defibrillators, which are usually mounted onto walls in the places they are most needed, allow users to provide high-energy, powerful electric shocks to the heart through pads which are placed on the chest near the heart.
It’s the shock itself that’s called defibrillation.
In an ideal world, defibrillators would be positioned in every public place and be available almost anywhere. That’s not the case, though, despite there being pressure put on institutions such as schools for instance, to install them.
The figures below, though, back up why many people are lobbying for their widespread installation in public places across the UK. It makes perfect sense, but it’s also about education.
Only 40 per cent of bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest perform CPR
Research by the British Heart Foundation reveal that that only four in ten bystanders performed CPR, and that 62 per cent of British adults admitted to being worried about what to do if someone collapsed in front of them after suffering cardiac arrest.
CPR must be learnt, but today’s defibrillators are all easy-to-use models that walk its user through the whole process and clearly communicate what to do.
It makes you think, if they’re that important to saving lives, why isn’t it the law for them to be installed in every school, office or other busy public places?
If a defibrillator is used within 3-5 minutes of cardiac arrest, survival rates jump from 6 per cent to 74 per cent
Again, the figures back up the fact that they make a huge difference. In fact, alongside effective CPR, they are, according to defibshop, the only effective treatment for a person who has suffered cardiac arrest.
The last two, frankly startling points should be compelling enough reason for people to take action and learn CPR and also for the widespread installation of defibrillators.
It’s simple: defibrillators make all the difference
The answer is that defibrillators make all the difference following sudden cardiac arrest, but more still needs to be done to increase awareness.
The most high-profile case surrounding defibrillators in recent memory involved footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a cardiac arrest in 2012 that caused his heart to stop beating.
Muamba, who has since retired from the game due to the incident, has gone on to work with the British Heart Foundation to raise awareness of healthy heart, defibrillation and defibrillator training.
He was one of the lucky ones. The stadium he was performing in, White Hart Lane, was kitted out with the right defibrillation equipment and trained people were on hand to save his life.
Muamba is part of the 10 per cent.
Others have not been so fortunate, but that doesn’t have to be the case .
Now is the time to empower people to save lives.
Andrew Williams writes for defibshop.