(HealthDay News) — When someone goes into cardiac arrest, quick action from bystanders can have a long-lasting impact, researchers say.
Not only were the patients more likely to survive, they were also significantly less likely to sustain brain damage or enter a nursing home in the following year, a new study found.
It’s well known that cardiac arrest victims have a better shot at surviving if witnesses jump into action, said lead researcher Dr. Kristian Kragholm.
That means performing chest compressions or, if possible, using an automated external defibrillator (AED) — a layperson-friendly device that can “shock” a stopped heart back into rhythm.
The new study findings, Kragholm noted, show those actions have long-term benefits, too.
“Our study findings underscore the importance of learning how to recognize cardiac arrest, how to do chest compressions, and how to employ an AED,” said Kragholm, of Aalborg University Hospital, in Denmark.
Others agreed. “These data are very important,” said Dr. Zachary Goldberger, an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle.
“I think the bottom line is clear,” Goldberger said. “We all should be ready to recognize and respond to cardiac arrest. We can all play a role in helping to save someone’s life — and, this shows, improve their long-term outcomes, too.”
Dr. Michael Kurz is an associate professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association (AHA).
He said it’s important to have research like this that confirms the long-range impact of bystanders’ response to cardiac arrest.
“We don’t just want people to survive,” Kurz said. “We want them to be able to go home to their families and get back to their lives.”
In the United States, more than 350,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital each year, according to the AHA.
In 2016, the group says, only 12 percent of those who suffered cardiac arrest survived — though that actually marks progress over previous rates.
Survival is dismal because, without emergency treatment, cardiac arrest is fatal within minutes.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and cannot pump blood and oxygen to the body. If a bystander performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), that keeps the victim’s blood circulating — buying time until paramedics arrive. It is not a heart attack, which is caused by a blockage that stops blood flow to the heart.