Pump up the Volume

Cardiac Arrest CPR Heart Attack

We’ve all seen it in the movies, the hero or heroine pumps
away at the chest of an
unconscious person and, miraculously, minutes later the
dying person is revived. Of course, real life isn't like that. Nevertheless,
timely and effective CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation can mean the
difference between life and death for somebody who has gone into cardiac

As an emergency
procedure, CPR rarely restarts someone’s heart on its own. Rather, the
procedure is performed as a means of preserving intact brain function and keeping
vital organs alive until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous
blood circulation and breathing in the patient.

The technique
requires proper training, often using a special life support simulator, and involves
chest compressions at least 5 cm (2 in) deep and at a rate of at least 100 per
minute, in an effort to create artificial circulation by manually pumping blood
through the heart. 

Formerly, this
technique was used alongside artificial respiration, involving the rescuer exhaling
into the subject’s mouth or nose or utilizing a device to push air into the patient’s
lungs. Current recommendations from the American
Heart Association
and International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation emphasize high-quality chest compressions
(sufficient rate and depth without excessively ventilating) over artificial
respiration, while a simplified
CPR Water Rescue Manikin
CPR method involving chest compressions only is
recommended for untrained rescuers. An obvious exception is in cases of
respiratory arrest such as drowning, where artificial respiration is

In successful
cases, the heart is usually restarted through defibrillation – basically the administration of an electric
shock to restore a viable or ‘perfusing’ heart rhythm. Defibrillation is only
effective for certain heart rhythms, namely ventricular
or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, rather than asystole or pulseless electrical activity. CPR may succeed in inducing a heart rhythm which may be shockable.

Time is of the essence in all cases of cardiac arrest. For
instance, in the US, studies have
shown that immediate CPR followed by defibrillation within 3-5 minutes of
sudden VF cardiac arrest improves survival. In cities such as Seattle where CPR
training is widespread and defibrillation by emergency services follows
quickly, the survival rate is about 30 percent. In contrast, in cities such as
New York, without those advantages, the survival rate is considerably lower at only
1-2 percent.

Cardiac Arrest vs Heart Attack

Do you know the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack?  Many people use the terms interchangeably but the conditions are quite different and the causes, symptoms and responses needed also differ.  Here's what the American Heart Association has to say about it:

  • Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is an 'electrical' problem.
  • Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction in the heart that causes an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).  With its pumping action disrupted, the heart cannot pump blood to the brain, lungs and other organs.
  • A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked.  A heart attack is a 'circulation' problem.
  • A blocked artery prevents oxygen-rich blood from reaching a section of the heart.  If the blocked artery is not reopened quickly, the part of the heart normally nourished by the artery begins to die.

The association has put
together a useful infographic
explaining the different symptoms and how to respond to both events.

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