As a medical emergency, there is nothing more dramatic than sudden cardiac arrest. A person at home or in the community, suddenly (often with no symptoms) collapses. Consciousness is lost in a matter of seconds and there is instantaneous loss of pulse and blood pressure. At the moment of cardiac arrest, the person is clinically dead. Within 10 minutes clinical death will progress to irreversible biological death and another statistic will be notched in the tally of deaths from heart disease. This cold “statistic” cannot possibly reveal the reality of a vital person engaged in the community, with family and friends, children and grandchildren. Yet there is a small window of opportunity, measured in minutes, for life literally to be snatched from the closing jaws of death. If CPR, defibrillation, and advanced medical care can arrive at the scene quickly, there is a decent chance of successful resuscitation.
Though the national survival rate for cardiac arrest is in the single digits, some communities are able to achieve a survival rate of 50% or higher from cardiac arrest associated with ventricular fibrillation–the rhythm with the best chance of resuscitation.
How these communities do it, and how your community can do it, is what this guide is all about. Achieving success in resuscitation does not entail an understanding of quantum physics—the factors leading to success are known. This has been the constant refrain of the Resuscitation Academy since its founding in 2009. Lives are saved not just by highly trained EMS professionals, but also by highly efficient EMS systems. Individuals and systems save people. And both can perform smarter and better.
This supplement is designed to serve as a guide that lays out 10 steps that will lead to an increase in cardiac arrest survival in your community. It is a practical guide, full of concrete suggestions and specific training tools. The faculty of the Resuscitation Academy hope you embrace these ideas and steps. Though each step may require some adaptation so that it can fit and work in your community, we have little doubt that these steps can transform your system.
For those of us in EMS, there can be nothing more gratifying than saving a human life.
Improvement Is Possible: Improving cardiac survival rates, one community at a time
This guide is designed more as a menu, from which you can choose practical programs that will improve cardiac arrest survival in your community. There are 10 steps, and they are divided into low-hanging and high-hanging fruit.
The four steps, designated as low-hanging fruit are those that can deliver the biggest bang (in terms of improved cardiac arrest survival) with the least expenditure of resources. The six steps, designated as higher-hanging fruit will also improve survival, but may require more resources to implement.
More extensive discussion of the topics in this guide may be found in the University of Washington Press publication, “Resuscitate! How Your Community Can Improve Survival From Sudden Cardiac Arrest – Second Edition.”
Resuscitation Academy Contributors
*Resuscitation Academy contributors are affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine; Medic One Foundation; Seattle Fire Department–Seattle Medic One; Public Health–Seattle and King County, Emergency Medical Services Division, Seattle.
- Jennifer Blackwood
- Megan Bloomingdale
- B.A. Bosaiya
- Pam Bryson
- Leonard Cobb, MD
- Michael Copass, MD
- Linda Culley
- Susan Damon
- Ann Doll
- Mickey Eisenberg, MD
- Peter Kudenchuk,MD
- Jonathan Larsen
- Hendrika Meischke
- Norm Nedell
- Michele Olsufka
- Steve Perry
- Randi Riesenberg
- Thomas Rea, MD
- Michael Sayre, MD
- Jan Sprake
- Cleo Subido
- Rebecca Watson