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Every year 30,000 people experience a cardiac arrest in the UK in the community, for example in their own homes, in their work place or place of study. Cardiac arrest taking place out of hospitals is still a leading cause of death in the UK.

Frighteningly, each year 270 children die at school as a result of sudden cardiac arrest. These children are usually fit and healthy with no sign to indicate that they have an underlying heart condition.

Commotio cordis

Some of these 270 deaths are likely to be due to commotio cordis. This is when a blow to the chest in the precordial region – such as being hit by a ball in a sport such as baseball, hockey, cricket or football – this blow to the chest and can disrupt the heart rhythm at a critical time in the heart beat and can cause cardiac arrest. (If you have heard of the precordial thump changing heart rhythm, this is the same mechanism of action).

Young males

Commotio cordis most frequently occurs in young males age between 10 and 18 years old and so can affect children at either primary or secondary school.

Chance of survival

If someone has suffered a SCA, their best chance of survival is bystander CPR being given immediately. However this often does not occur, as people simply don’t know how to help or lack the confidence to try. As a result, by the time an ambulance arrives, valuable time has been lost. Crucially, in many cases, any chance of saving the casualty has gone.

Without immediate treatment, 90-95% of sudden cardiac arrest victims will die.

CPR and defibrillator

In England, the ambulance services attempt to resuscitate approximately 28,000 people each year, of which less than 10% survive. The more people in the community trained to help and able to give prompt CPR and use a defibrillator, the better the chance of survival and prognosis for all of us.

Boost survival rates

The survival rates of children who experience SCA whilst at school could boost their chances of survival from a mere 6% to 74%, if they receive prompt effective CPR and a defibrillator is used within 3 minutes of a cardiac arrest.

Denmark doubles survival rates

Denmark has remarkable cardiac arrest survival statistics. Since 2005, they have had various campaigns to improve CPR education:

  • All children are taught CPR skills from elementary school stage.
  • Learning CPR is a mandatory part of passing the driving licence.
  • There are community-based training courses throughout the country, open for all to attend.

Scandinavian success

These programmes have resulted in an increase from 8% to 22% of patients arriving at hospital alive following a sudden cardiac arrest. By 2011, the provision of CPR by members of the public more than doubled and survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest tripled. The results across the rest of Scandinavia with similar training programmes are equally impressive.

Seriously disappointing survival rates in UK

Sadly, the survival rates for the UK are desperately disappointing. You have a substantially reduced chance of surviving a community cardiac arrest in the UK, less than a third success rate compared to countries where first aid is taught in schools. Therefore, the Government has made the landmark decision to make first aid training a mandatory part of the English PHSE curriculum.

Free teaching resources

First Aid for Life has been providing first aid training in schools for many years and in response to this new legislation, we have developed a brand-new set of free teaching resources – PowerPoints, PDF handouts, posters, videos and infographics – designed specifically for primary and secondary schools to help introduce their students to the complex subject of first aid.

First Aid in Schools

Online first aid training courses

In addition, we have modular online first aid training courses to give students an excellent grounding in first aid before ideally being taught practically by our experienced First aid training professionals.

Empowering students

First aid is a vital life-skill and its importance cannot be over-stated. Gaining these skills empowers students to be more risk aware, to be able to help themselves and others if involved in a medical emergency and could save their life.

Written by Emma Hammett RGN

For free teaching resources or more information please visit or contact 02086754036

First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency.

Free Ebook:7 vital first aid skills every family should know

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