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What Are The Chances of Survival When Using a Defibrillator?

What Are The Chances of Survival When Using a Defibrillator?

What Are The Chances of Survival When Using a Defibrillator?

When someone goes into cardiac arrest, they could be past the point of no return in a matter of seconds. Using a defibrillator is the only way to offer someone the chance of survival, and the sooner one can be used the better. 

The biggest advantage of using an automated external defibrillator is that you could save a life when someone has virtually no chance of survival by any other means. In this article, we’ll look at just how effective using a defibrillator is and what affects a person’s chance of survival from cardiac arrest.

Defibrillator in public space

What happens during cardiac arrest?

When someone goes into cardiac arrest their heart stops beating suddenly which ceases the flow of oxygenated blood to the vital organs and other parts of the body. Anyone can experience cardiac arrest and around 30,000 are reported each year happening outside of hospitals.  

Cardiac arrest is caused by arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat that occurs when the electrical signals that keep the heartbeat regular are interrupted. There are different types of arrhythmia and not all cause cardiac arrest.

Cardiac arrest is also called sudden cardiac arrest because it happens all of a sudden. A person will collapse, stop breathing and have no pulse if they go into cardiac arrest.

What does a defibrillator do?

AEDs or Automatic External Defibrillators are used to help people who have gone into cardiac arrest. Together with CPR which is used to help keep oxygenated blood moving around the body, a defibrillator works by resetting the heart and helping it return to a normal rhythm.

Often, people think a defibrillator works by giving the heart a ‘jump start’, but in fact what happens is the opposite. A defibrillator triggers a restart in each of the heart’s cells. It does this by passing a short electrical current through the heart which de-polarises the cardiac muscle.

If successful, this will allow the individual cells in the heart to recharge at the same time and the hearts natural pacemaker will be able to re-establish a rhythm. This normal heartbeat is called the sinus rhythm.

A defibrillator will be able to detect an unnatural but shockable rhythm and use this to determine whether a shock can be administered. A fully automatic AED will administer a shock as soon as it determines whether one is needed provided it is in the right position. A semi-automatic AED will let you know when to press the button to administer a shock once it’s determined necessary.

10 minutes after a cardiac arrest the chance of survival is highly unlikely, but paramedics take an average of 11 minutes to arrive on the scene in urban areas of the UK. If you go into cardiac arrest and you’re not in the hospital, you’ll be depending on a member of the public using a public access AED and performing CPR.

Find out more about how a defibrillator works and when to use a defibrillator in our blog.

Life Expectancy After Defibrillator Use

What does early defibrillation do?

When someone is in cardiac arrest every minute counts because the longer their heart isn’t working the more oxygen-starved their vital organs become. These steps show how early defibrillation can decrease the chance and severity of an injury.

1. Two minutes after cardiac arrest CPR must begin. 

2. Three minutes after cardiac arrest, lack of blood flow begins to affect the function of the brain, leading to potential brain injury that gets progressively worse the longer the person is not resuscitated.

3. Nine minutes after cardiac arrest brain damage is likely. 

4. 10 minutes after cardiac arrest survival is very unlikely. 

Early defibrillation survival rates decrease quickly after someone goes into cardiac arrest. If defibrillation occurs within five minutes of cardiac arrest, the person has a survival chance of 50-70%. This decreases by 10% for every minute they are in cardiac arrest.

Maximum % Survival Rate 70%60%50%40%30%20%
Minutes in Cardiac Arrest5678910

The Importance of Early Defibrillation

So, how effective is a defibrillator? A 2017 study published by the National Institute of Health found that the survival rate of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the UK is 8%, lower than that of other developing countries. The introduction of CPR and attaching a defibrillator by a bystander led the chance of survival to increase to 32%. Defibrillation where a shock could be and was administered further increased survival rates to 53%. This study shows that, in some cases, using an AED defibrillator increases the survival rate by a factor of up to 7.

Where CPR and attaching a defibrillator by a police officer or firefighter occurred, survival rates were just 12%. Overall the study showed that the intervention of a bystander, who could begin to help the person in a shorter space of time, gave those in cardiac arrest a significantly greater chance of survival.

More and more defibrillators are being installed in public places to give people the chance of survival in a cardiac arrest situation. Any place that is used by members of the public, or by people for work should have access to a defibrillator. Public access defibrillators and workplace defibrillators are an important investment for many businesses. 

Defibrillators should be installed on a wall-mounted bracket so they can be easily seen and accessed, while kept safe when not in use. It’s also a good idea to keep a spare AED battery nearby just in case. If you buy from Steroplast, we’ll notify you when your defibrillator batteries are about to go out of date so you’ll never find yourself with a flat AED battery. 

Where is your nearest defibrillator? Find a defibrillator near you in our blog.

An AED will give you instructions on every step you need to take when using it, but being prepared will help you give assistance more quickly. Read our guides on how to use an AED:

  • How to Use an AED
  • Defibrillator Position and Placement: How to Get it Right 
  • Safety During Defibrillation with an AED

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