AEDs and Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

Survival Rates of Cardiac Arrest Victims When AED Is Used

Today we’ll take a deep dive into AEDs and cardiac arrest survival rates. Right now, the greatest cause of death in the US is heart disease. In 2020 alone, it was estimated that around 679,000 people in the US died from some type of heart disease, making that 1 out of 5 people. According to AHA, 2022 had around 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

There are many reasons why a sudden cardiac arrest may occur. However, one thing is for sure in all of them – using the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)  technique, and an AED can increase the chances of survival.

In this text, we will discuss some of the questions regarding sudden cardiac arrests (SCAs), the use of AEDs, what are the survival rates, and how to improve them.

Cardiac Arrest Basics

To explain the use of an AED and the outcomes that come from that, we first must know why we need it. The main reason for it is a medical condition called cardiac arrest. Namely, this condition arises when the heart stops pumping blood to all other organs in the body.

This is usually because of an electrical malfunction causing the heart muscle to stop pumping blood. Various factors, including cardiovascular disease, cardiac trauma, drug overdose, anaphylaxis, drowning, and electrocution, can cause cardiac arrest. Additionally, this can cause the victim to collapse, become unconscious and stop breathing suddenly.

According to AHA, almost 90% of those that experience a sudden cardiac arrest end fatally. This only emphasizes the need for prompt and accurate AED use followed by immediate medical attention from professionals. To understand AEDs and cardiac arrest survival rates, let’s understand what a cardiac arrest is.

How To Recognize a Cardiac Arrest?

Many confuse cardiac arrest cases with heart attacks. Although similar, these two are entirely different. Here are some of the signs that can be visually noticed and refer to cardiac arrest:

  • If a person collapses suddenly and loses consciousness. 
  • If the person is not breathing.
  • If the person does not respond to yelling or when shaken with a bit of force.
  • If you can not find a pulse.

Cardiac Arrest Causes

Commonly, the main cause of this medical condition is arrhythmia. But this doesn’t refer to all types of arrhythmia. Ventricular fibrillation and  ventricular tachycardia are the ones that usually lead to cardiac arrest. 

Other causes of cardiac arrest include:

  • Asystole – no electrical activity in the heart; 
  • Bradyarrhythmia – heart rate that is too slow; 
  • Tachyarrhythmia – heart rate that is too fast. 

In some cases, cardiac arrest can be caused by an obstruction in the coronary arteries, a heart attack, severe electrolyte imbalance, prior cardiac arrest, coronary heart disease, heart valve disease, etc. 

Ventricular Fibrillation (V-Fib) Definition

Ventricular fibrillation (V-Fib) is a type of arrhythmia that can cause cardiac arrest. It occurs when the signals that maintain the normal rhythm of the heart become rapid and chaotic, causing the ventricles to quiver and not pump blood. 

This condition can be dangerous; in fact, it is the most deadly arrhythmia. Immediate treatment for ventricular fibrillation usually involves defibrillation. In some cases, medications may also help regulate the heart’s rhythm.

Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) Definition

This type of abnormal heart rhythm is one of the most well-known reasons that lead to heart attacks and cardiac arrest. It’s when the lower chambers of the heart are beating much faster, thus not pumping enough oxygenated blood to the body. 

This type of arrhythmia is characterized by three or more consecutive ventricular contractions that occur at a rate of more than 100 beats per minute (bpm). VT is often caused by underlying heart disease. Treatment typically involves medications and/or electrical cardioversion or the use of an AED to restore a normal rhythm.

Immediate Treatment for Cardiac Arrest 

Understanding AEDs and cardiac arrest survival rates we must understand how to treat cardiac arrest. When an SCA happens, immediate treatment is of utmost importance. The methods that should be employed are cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the utilization of automated external defibrillators. These two are vital and should be done within 10 minutes of the accident. 

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

When you notice that someone has gone into cardiac arrest, the first thing is to administer CPR.  This works by compressing the person’s chest to create vacuum pressure – it’s essentially imitating the heart’s rhythm. 

This pressure then pushes the blood out of the heart and into the arteries. By keeping the blood circulating, you allow the oxygen to reach the victim’s brain and thus bring them back to consciousness. 

Automated External Defibrillators

Only giving CPR will not always help. Instead, it is advised that, if possible, you also use an AED. AEDs are used to treat sudden cardiac arrest by literally shocking the heart. 

Luckily, today these devices can be found in many public places, such as airports, malls, and schools, so even bystanders can use them. Needless to say, they are necessary equipment for first responders, such as firefighters or the police.

When to Use AEDs

As we mentioned, not all situations will allow the usage of an AED. However, if you have this device near you, you should forego using CPR and immediately start with a shock to the heart. 

Some AED machines only require you to attach them to the victim and turn them on so they will automatically apply the shock. Others may require manual administration of the shock, meaning you will have to use the device. 

Fortunately, in both cases, these devices are easy to use and will guide you through the process via audio sounds. Needless to say, if there is no AED around you, proceed with CPR until the emergency services arrive.

How to Use AEDs

The apparatus is designed so anyone with minimal or no medical training AEDs can utilize it. It can be used for adults and children, although the pads and electrodes may need to be changed if intended to be used on kids below 8 years and infants.

The procedure must be done within 7-10 minutes of the incident to prevent death. However, there are cases in which individuals have survived sudden cardiac arrest even after 10 minutes without CPR or defibrillation. This is more likely if the person is in good physical condition.

The procedure for using an AED is the following:

  1. Call for professional medical help.
  2. Find the AED and listen to the instructions. If there isn’t one, apply CPR.
  3. The person’s chest must be completely exposed and wiped clean.
  4. Put the pads according to the instructions.
  5. Wait for the device to analyze the victim’s heart pulse.
  6. You must not touch the person when the defibrillator sends a shock.
  7. The device will tell you when to proceed with CPR.

AEDs and Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, cardiac arrest is the cause of death for over 17 million people worldwide – around 30% of global mortality rates. Furthermore, the survival rate from SAC is less than 1% globally and in the US is about 5%.

Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates Out Of Hospitals

SCA is most likely to happen outside of a hospital. The downside to this is that only 46% of people get help before an ambulance arrives.

An AHA survey found that around 55% of workers are not certified in CPR and AED in the United States. Even more so, 50% of US employees don’t know where to look for an AED. These statistics show that low education and disinterest decrease the survival rates if a cardiac arrest happens outside of a hospital.

The Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, on the other hand, showed that laymen used AEDs in 5.8% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) and administered a shock in 1.3% of such cases.

Average AED Survival Rate

Research by the National Center for Health and Care Research showed that the average survival rate in any cardiac arrest case when using an AED was 22% if attended by a layman. Interestingly enough, the survival rate when using an AED on a cardiac arrest victim was 32% when given by a bystander, opposite to 12% when given by police or firefighters. 

However, this was only for cases when shocks weren’t administered. In cases where they were, the median survival rate was 40%.

Conclusion: AEDs and Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

All current statistics show that the use of AEDs improves the chances of survival in cardiac arrest victims. Many states have acknowledged this and are on the path of implementing some type of mandatory CPR/AED course.

Having this in mind, public access should be allowed for AEDs, especially near big and crowded places. What’s more, visiting a CPR course can inadvertently increase the general survival rates, as these classes also teach you how to use an AED. This should have given you a good understanding of AEDs and Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates.