What is a defibrillator?
A defibrillator is an advanced medical tool that delivers a high energy, electric shock to the heart through the chest wall. It is essential life saving tool for someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest. There are thousands of defibrillators installed across the UK in public areas such as parks, work places, high streets and sporting venues - these public access defibrillators are known as PADs.
A defibrillator is its most effective when administered within the first minute of a victim collapsing. If a defibrillator is used within the first minute, the survival rate can be as high as 90%. If a defibrillator is used within the first 3 to 5 minutes, the likelihood of survival is roughly 74% showing that having a defibrillator close by really makes all the difference.
What is a sudden cardiac arrest?
A sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. They can strike in children and adults, males and females and to anybody regardless of ethnicity. A cardiac arrest occurs when there is an electrical problem with the heart which causes it to stop altogether. This results in a lack of oxygenated blood being pumped to the brain meaning victims will likely die unless a defibrillator is used straight away.
How many people suffer from cardiac arrests?
Based on European data, there are around 60,000 out of hospital cardiac arrests every year in the UK, meaning cardiac arrests are deemed a ‘health care crisis’. Astonishingly, there were over 7.4 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in 2019 alone - thankfully with the increase in defibrillators in place around the country, more and more lives are being saved.
According to the British Heart Foundation, less than 1 in 10 people survive a sudden cardiac arrest. Shockingly, 3% of defibrillators are used outside of hospitals and only 40% of bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest would be confident in performing CPR. Knowing this, the more people that are taught the importance of CPR and how to deliver it would increase this 40% figure, in turn saving more lives.
Following the well received national defibrillator database that was rolled out by the NHS, it is clear that the more people that know about defibrillators, how to use them and where they are, will undoubtedly increase the number of lives saved. Not only this but last year, a huge 170,000 people died due to heart and circulatory problems, equating to an average of 460 people a day. Thankfully, since the British Heart Foundation has been established, this number is roughly half of the original figure.
Although cardiac arrests can happen to anyone, there are a number of risk factors that can increase your likelihood of experience a cardiac arrest.Previous heart conditions such as coronary artery disease can increase your chances of experiencing a cardiac arrest with other risk factors including stress, illegal drug use, high blood pressure and hereditary heart conditions such as a coronary artery anomaly.
In order to stand yourself in the best stead to avoid having a sudden cardiac arrest, our advice is to do your best to carry out a healthy lifestyle. Avoid too much alcohol, stop smoking if you do, try exercising every week and eat a well balanced diet. Of course, if you suffer from a coronary condition you may be more of a high risk factor but, adopting a healthy lifestyle increases your likelihood of having a stronger, healthier heart.
Response times across the UK
National statistics show that the average response time for ambulance services in England were 7 minutes and 19 seconds in February 2020. Data also shows that the average call answer time was 5 seconds meaning you can get through to the emergency services almost instantaneously. With this, it’s important to remember to always call an ambulance first as seven minutes without care could mean a life is lost.
The survival rate for someone suffering a sudden cardiac arrest decreases by 10% every minute. Using a defibrillator whilst you wait for the emergency services to arrive could very well save a life.
Research also shows that those who suffered an out of hospital cardiac arrest had a survival rate of 56%, ensuring you use a defibrillator and deliver CPR straight away could help increase this figure even more.
What to do in an emergency
If somebody you are with or a passer by suffers a cardiac arrest, they will lose consciousness straight away and their heart will stop beating. In order to help them, you must first call 999 and then begin CPR. It’s important to remember that in order to save the life of someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest, you must use a defibrillator. Once you have called the emergency services, find your nearest defibrillator and begin using it. All defibrillators are really easy to follow and have simple guides that show what steps should be taken to correctly use the defibrillator.
Thankfully, defibrillators allow everyday members of the public to become life savers when it is most unexpected and although the chances of having to ever administer CPR or use a defibrillator are very minor, having those resources and skills in place is truly invaluable. With the national database of defibrillators being launched in Spring 2019, the more people who know about them, the better.
With such advanced technology defibrillators work cleverly to ‘shock’ a persons heart into restarting after suffering a cardiac arrest and can be done within a few minutes of use meaning often a victim can make a full recovery. At the moment there are over 10,000 defibrillators in the UK with maps helping to identify the nearest one to your work place or local town with hopefully many more appearing in public places before long.