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Beyond CPR: Other Ways Bystanders Can Help During a Cardiac Arrest Emergency

Updated: May 31, 2023

Increasing the chances of survival in cardiac arrest.
Increasing the chances of survival in cardiac arrest.

When someone experiences cardiac arrest, every second counts. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a well-known and crucial intervention for saving lives. However, there are other actions that bystanders can take to assist during a cardiac arrest emergency. By being aware of these additional steps and understanding their potential impact, bystanders can play a vital role in increasing the chances of survival for individuals in cardiac arrest.

1. Call for Emergency Assistance

The first and foremost action bystanders should take during a cardiac arrest emergency is to call for emergency assistance. Immediately dial the local emergency number, such as 911 in the United States, to alert professional medical responders. Provide accurate information about the location and situation, emphasizing that it is a cardiac arrest case. While this might seem obvious, promptly activating the emergency response system ensures that professional help is on the way while other interventions are being performed.

2. Retrieve an Automated External Defibrillator

AEDs are portable devices that can analyze a person's heart rhythm and deliver an electric shock if necessary. Many public places, such as schools, shopping malls, and airports, are equipped with AEDs. If a cardiac arrest occurs, instruct someone nearby to retrieve an AED while you attend to the victim. Follow the device's voice prompts or visual instructions to apply the electrodes correctly. AEDs are designed to be user-friendly, and their usage significantly improves the chances of survival, especially when combined with CPR.

3. Provide Continuous Emotional Support

During a cardiac arrest emergency, emotional support is often overlooked but can greatly impact the well-being of the victim and their loved ones. Bystanders can play a vital role by offering reassurance and comfort to those affected. Staying calm and providing empathy to family members and friends can help alleviate their distress and anxiety. Additionally, offering words of encouragement to the victim can have a positive psychological effect, boosting their will to survive. While it may not have a direct physiological impact, emotional support contributes to an environment of care and compassion, which can positively influence the overall outcome.

4. Assist with Basic Life Support Techniques

Apart from CPR, there are other basic life support techniques that bystanders can employ to support a person in cardiac arrest. Clearing the airway by tilting the head back and lifting the chin can help maintain an open passage for breathing. If the victim is not breathing spontaneously, providing rescue breaths can be crucial. Pinch the victim's nose closed, make a complete seal over their mouth with your own, and deliver two slow breaths. After each breath, watch for the chest to rise. If it does not rise, reposition the head and try again. Continue this cycle until medical help arrives or the person starts breathing independently. While these techniques should not replace CPR, they can buy time and improve oxygenation while waiting for professional medical assistance.

Cardiac arrest is a life-threatening situation that requires immediate action. Bystanders can go beyond performing CPR to make a significant difference in the outcome of a cardiac arrest emergency. By promptly calling for emergency assistance, retrieving an AED, providing emotional support, and assisting with basic life support techniques, bystanders can contribute to saving lives. Public awareness campaigns and CPR and first aid training programs should emphasize the importance of these additional interventions, empowering individuals to act confidently and effectively during cardiac arrest emergencies. Together, let us create a society where everyone is equipped with the knowledge and skills to save lives.

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