Sav­ing lives

Im­me­di­ate CPR, with AED, EMS, of­fer best chance of sur­viv­ing car­diac ar­rest

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY DR. ED­MUND HAR­RI­SON Dr. Ed­mund Har­ri­son is a board mem­ber of the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion, P.E.I.; and med­i­cal di­rec­tor, Phys­i­cal Medicine and Re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion Ser­vices at the QEH

Dr. Ed­mund Har­ri­son weighs in on how to sur­vive car­diac ar­rest.

The Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion ex­tends its ap­pre­ci­a­tion to Chris Robin­son for his thought­pro­vok­ing com­men­tary in the De­cem­ber 30 is­sue of The Guardian around the is­sue of low sur­vival rates in P.E.I. fol­low­ing sud­den car­diac ar­rest.

To avoid any con­fu­sion aris­ing from Mr. Robin­son’s use of the terms heart at­tack and sud­den car­diac ar­rest, it is im­por­tant to note that th­ese terms are not in­ter­change­able: a heart at­tack oc­curs when blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, whereas in sud­den car­diac ar­rest the heart has un­ex­pect­edly stopped beat­ing. Signs of car­diac ar­rest in­clude no breath­ing or only gasp­ing, no move­ment, and no pulse.

We also wel­comed com­ments on Mr. Robin­son’s ar­ti­cle in the The Guardian and the Jour­nal-Pi­o­neer by Des­mond Colo­han, Pro­vin­cial Chief Coro­ner. Dr. Colo­han takes is­sue with Robin­son’s state­ment that P.E.I.’s sur­vival rates for out of hos­pi­tal car­diac ar­rest are worse than those in other ar­eas. Colo­han ref­er­ences in­for­ma­tion from the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion jour­nal, Cir­cu­la­tion, on the “world­wide lack of sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in car­diac ar­rest sur­vival rates” over the past 30 years. He also cor­rectly states that “In most car­diac ar­rests, the weak link is prompt by­stander CPR.”

Eighty per cent of sud­den car­diac ar­rests oc­cur out­side of hospi­tals, and less than five per cent of th­ese in­di­vid­u­als sur­vive. The chance of sur­vival is dou­bled when CPR is started im­me­di­ately fol­lowed by prompt use of an au­to­mated ex­ter­nal de­fib­ril­la­tor (AED). And this is where P.E.I., in­deed all of Canada, does lag sig­nif­i­cantly be­hind other coun­tries.

Cur­rently in Canada, by­stander re­sponse rates for car­diac ar­rest are in the thirty to forty per cent range.

Other coun­tries have rates of fifty to sixty per cent.

As most of your read­ers will know, the Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion is com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing pub­lic train­ing in by­stander CPR and ac­cess to AEDs in pub­lic places. With the help of our part­ners, we work to en­sure that all Is­lan­ders, re­gard­less of their lo­ca­tion, re­ceive the same ex­cel­lent care, from by­stander re­sponse to early de­fib­ril­la­tion through to ad­vanced pre-hos­pi­tal care.

With the re­cent in­stal­la­tion of new dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment in all P.E.I. emer­gency ve­hi­cles it is hoped that re­sponse times for car­diac and other emer­gen­cies will be re­duced and lives saved. How­ever, the re­al­ity is that in a prov­ince sub­ject to se­vere win­ter weather and with a largely ru­ral pop­u­la­tion, im­me­di­ate CPR com­bined with the use of an AED in con­cert with the prompt ac­ti­va­tion of Emer­gency Med­i­cal Ser­vices of­fer the best chance of sav­ing a life in the event of a car­diac ar­rest.

The Heart and Stroke Foun­da­tion en­cour­ages all Cana­di­ans to get trained to ap­ply CPR and AED skills when needed.

We con­tinue to work with gov­ern­ments, other vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tions, Is­land com­mu­ni­ties and ded­i­cated vol­un­teers to en­sure the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of th­ese es­sen­tial emer­gency care mea­sures.

To find a CPR course near you visit heartand­stroke.ca/he­roes

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