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Chain of survival - John C. Kirk

Mar. 22nd, 2012

11:58 pm - Chain of survival

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Yesterday the BBC published an article about Fabrice Muamba: Can you be 'dead' for 78 minutes? It's interesting, but I think that some of the information is inaccurate.

Quoting the article:

"The important thing in such cases is to start CPR quickly.

This artificially pumps the blood round the body, buying medics time to work out how to get the heart working properly.

Every minute delay in starting CPR reduces the chances of survival by 10%."

I agree that it's important to start CPR quickly. However, where did the 10%/minute figure come from? They haven't cited any sources. I think this actually applies to early defibrillation rather than early CPR. The HeartStart website supports this:

"It is a proven concept that the only effective treatment for ventricular fibrillation (VF) is prompt defibrillation. Yet, defibrillation is only effective when it is administered within the first few minutes of a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) episode.

A study published in an October 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that survival rates are highest when defibrillation is delivered within three minutes of the time of collapse."

They have a chart on that page, labelled "Chance of success reduced 7-10% each minute". I've had a look at the New England Journal of Medicine website, but I can't find the study they mentioned. HeartStart are an AED manufacturer, so obviously they have a motive to promote the use (and purchase) of defibrillators, but I'm willing to trust their claims.

Looking back at the BBC article, they seem to agree (contradicting the earlier text):

"But CPR alone is not enough. That only gives someone suffering a cardiac arrest a 5% chance of survival.

While he lay stricken on the pitch, the footballer was given oxygen and three shocks using a defibrillator."

I've sent some feedback to the BBC, so I'll be interested to see whether they amend the article. In the meantime, here's my advice:

1) Don't believe everything you read.
2) Do a first aid course, so that you know what to do in the event of an emergency.

Edit: (31-Mar-2012) A week later, the BBC haven't modified that article on their website, so I assume they're not going to, which is disappointing.