When out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (stopping of the heart) occurs, the chance of survival without intervention decreases by 10% per minute. After 4-6 minutes without treatment of cardiac arrest brain death occurs and by 10 minutes without treatment the chance of survival is next to none.
The benefits of early cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are well documented in “stopping the clock” and providing circulation of oxygenated blood to the vital organs. CPR will essentially maintain blood flow which will buy the patient time to definitive treatment.
It is found that ensuring early CPR is the number 1 factor in increasing cardiac arrest survival outcomes. In recent years CPR guidelines have been modified to make the training very easy and inexpensive in the hopes of it becoming more widespread.
The most beneficial “definitive treatment” is defibrillation. Defibrillation is the application of energy to a heart which is in a lethal and chaotic electrical rhythm which is incapable to properly circulating blood. For many years defibrillation was utilized only within a hospital setting. From there it was expanded to ambulance services and then eventually fire departments.
In recent years, in an effort to ensure that defibrillation is applied in a timely manner (under 6 minutes); defibrillators have been placed into the community. The target areas are places where high volumes of people are likely to congregate and where staff (who could be trained in the operation of the machine) are readily available to respond.
In many communities around North America the combination of wide-spread CPR training and public access defibrillation have increased cardiac arrest survival rates from the 5% that they have been traditionally over the years to as high as greater than 30% (the current gold standard in Seattle, Washington).
With the support and assistance of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario Haldimand County launched their public access defibrillation program in 2008 which has seen 39 Automated External Defibrillators (AED’s) placed in the community. With these defibrillators, we were also able to train approximately 350 people in CPR.
The 39 defibrillators have been placed in:
- 16 Community Centers
- 4 Arenas
- 4 County administration buildings
- 3 Public Pools
- 6 Libraries
- 4 Secondary Schools
- 2 Museums
The project to place the defibrillators in the community is on-going with the next step being a focus on schools and sporting venues. The public access defibrillator program is also available to assist private groups and organizations by providing information on defibrillators and assisting with the co-ordination of purchase, training and placement of defibrillators for private buildings.