Sudden cardiac arrest takes the lives of 300,000 to 400,000 people every year, with most dying before reaching a hospital. That is because the first three to five minutes after cardiac arrest are the most critical to survival, and even the fastest emergency response teams may have difficulty reaching the victim within that time. In fact, the national response time average is 10 to 12 minutes, and every minute that passes before the heart's rhythm is restored lessens the chance of survival by 7 to 10 percent.
Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem of the heart that causes its rhythm to be chaotic, stopping blood flow to the brain and causing the victim to lose consciousness quickly. It is distinct from heart attack, which is more of a "plumbing" problem, and can affect anyone, regardless of age or fitness level.
Fortunately, the heart can be shocked back into proper rhythm with rapid use of a defibrillator. Automated external defibrillators, or AEDs, make doing so easy for the layperson. AEDs provide easily followed audio instructions, sense if an electrical impulse should be given and do so only when it is appropriate.
Studies have shown workplace AED use can increase survival rates to 50 to 90 percent due to the significantly reduced time until defibrillation treatment is given. Workplace AED programs are cost-effective and easy to implement. An AED program should be overseen by a qualified physician and include basic training for employees.
Saint Francis Medical Center's occupational medicine physicians can help employers establish an AED program, and the Medical Center provides AED training certified by the American Heart Association®. This training can be held on or off the work site.
To learn more about establishing an AED program, call Saint Francis' Services to Business at 573-331-5825.