ThedaCare Health Matters

What to do when you witness cardiac arrest?

I recently had to recertify my credentials in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). ACLS is a protocol for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that not only uses chest compressions and artificial breathing but adds medications and other medical techniques to aid in attempts to provide lifesaving treatment to a patient with no pulse or breathing. Basic Life Support (BLS) is the initial CPR measures usually provided by bystanders before ACLS providers and equipment are available. 

 The main purpose of CPR is to keep blood circulating to carry oxygen to the brain and other organs until the heart can start again and breathing can be restored. Time is critical because the brain will start to suffer permanent damage if the blood flow stops for as little as 7 to 10 minutes. 

Unfortunately, most people who suffer cardiac arrest do not survive, but some are successfully resuscitated. If someone suffers cardiac arrest and nothing is done, they will die. The sooner CPR can be started the better the chances of successful resuscitation. The best chance for survival is when the cardiac arrest is witnessed, CPR is started immediately and there is access to advanced life saving treatment in a short time. 

Training in BLS will help people know what to do if they witness a cardiac arrest. If you don’t have BLS training, you can still start chest compressions and call for help until someone with more training arrives. It is recommended that the person doing chest compressions push down on the chest about 2 inches, at 100 to 120 times per minute and the pressure is released between compressions so the chest can return to its resting position.

The idea of trying to resuscitate patients with no pulse or breathing has come a long way. Researchers discovered that the best results occurred when blood could be circulated by compressing the chest and providing some artificial breaths

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