Cardiac Arrest

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In the UK there are over 30,000 cardiac arrests that take place each year outside of hospital. Of these, only 1 in 10 survive to be discharged to hospital. If CPR is administered to someone having a cardiac arrest they are 2-3 times more likely to survive and therefore it is vital that as many people as possible are trained, feel confident and understand the skills needed to step in and help someone in this situation.

What is a cardiac arrest?

A cardiac arrest is when a person’s heart goes into an abnormal rhythm and stops pumping blood around their body and to their brain. It causes the person to fall unconscious and stop breathing (or stop breathing normally).

What can cause a cardiac arrest?

A heart attack is the most common cause of cardiac arrest, when the blood supply gets blocked going to the heart (a blocked artery for example). However, there are several other potential causes of cardiac arrest, including other heart problems, severe bleeding, choking or even electrocution.

What are the signs and symptoms of a cardiac arrest and what does someone having a cardiac arrest look like?

Often, there are no signs or symptoms for someone who has a cardiac arrest as it comes on very suddenly and they will fall to the floor not breathing. However in the run up to this they may have some of the following symptoms (which could be the sign of a heart attack):

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath (A common sign in women)
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain (A common sign in men)

What do I do if I see someone having a cardiac arrest?

Call 999 and start CPR.

It takes just 3 minutes for brain damage to occur after someone has stopped breathing so it is really important to start CPR straight away. When you call 999 and say someone is not breathing they take on average eight (8) minutes to get to you so that means you have at least 5 minutes of the 8 minutes where brain damage is occurring if no one acts and performs CPR.

How do I perform CPR?

For adult CPR you want to do 30 chest compressions to every 2 breaths. To do a chest compression:

  • Kneel on the ground at a 90 degree angle to the casualty
  • Put the heel of one hand on the centre of their chest, roughly in line with the nipples and on top of the sternum (breast bone). Put your other hand on top in whatever way feels comfortable (I interlock my hands left hand on top or right but you may be different).
  • Make your arms straight and use your whole body to perform your compressions
  • Pump your arms 30 times. You want to do this at a speed of 100–120 BPM (about two per second) and press down about 1/3 of their chest depth

To do a rescue breath:

  • Tilt the casualty’s head back and lift their chin
  • Pinch their nose and get a good seal of your mouth around their mouth to make sure no air escapes
  • Breath into their mouth normally two times with just one second in between each breath. If you think you haven’t been able to get a good breath in, don’t worry, just move back on to the compressions

Repeat 30:2 until the ambulance comes, the casualty becomes responsive or you physically can do no more.

Can I do CPR on a woman?

YES!! Just because a woman has boobs or is wearing a bra, don’t be afraid to give them CPR. There have been studies showing women are less likely to receive CPR for this reason but just go for it, they want your help too!

When do I call an ambulance?

Immediately! Don’t delay. As soon as you see someone have a cardiac arrest and stop breathing, call 999 and start CPR. If someone else is with you get them to call 999, say the casualty is not breathing and give the address you are at whilst you start CPR.

It is important to start CPR as soon as possible to keep blood and oxygen pumping around the body however you must call 999 first otherwise no one will be coming to help you. If you are on your own without your phone go and get it as soon as you can and then run back and start CPR.

If this article has helped you and you would like regular hints and tips on general basic First Aid like my Facebook page @anderssonfirstaidtraining or follow me on instagram @andersson_first_aid_training.

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