Early defibrillation is a great way to save lives! As of September 21, 2011 this collaborative effort has saved the lives of 127 people in our community. This number reflects only patients found in ventricular fibrillation (VF) resulting from cardiac causes since our officers began carrying AEDs in November 1990. If we include non-cardiac causes and non-VF rhythms then that number increases to 142. If we include the number of survivors back to 1973, when officers delivered early CPR and the paramedics performed manual defibrillation, the number exceeds 258. If we could include the number of lives saved by officers simply because we do serve as first responders then the number would go even higher. Unfortunately our historical records were not maintained adequately to provide us a solid, defensible number.
When a person suffers a cardiac arrest that is related to heart disease, quite frequently, the person’s heart is in a rhythm known as ventricular fibrillation (VF). When the heart is beating in this manner, the chambers of the heart are contracting in a chaotic manner that leaves the heart unable to pump blood through the body. If this rhythm is not corrected within eight to ten minutes, death will result. Defibrillation is the process of applying a specially designed electrical charge to the heart to stop VF and hopefully allow the return of a normal cardiac rhythm.
Medical studies have proven that the sooner a fibrillating heart can be defibrillated, the better the chances that the person will survive. Each minute that passes essentially reduces the odds of survival by 10%. If defibrillation can be accomplished within one minute of the cardiac arrest, the odds of survival are about 90%. After five minutes, the odds are about 50%. In the ten minute range, there is little hope of survival.
In most communities the odds of surviving sudden cardiac arrest are in the 5-7% range. In Rochester we have driven survival from witnessed ventricular fibrillation arrests up to 52%. Thus it becomes obvious that we need to do everything humanly possible to get defibrillation equipment and CPR to the patient as quickly as possible.