Sheryl Ubelacker, THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Toronto Star
There is a huge variation in survival rates among people who receive emergency treatment after suffering cardiac arrest - and the overall prognosis is poor at best, a study of 10 Canadian and U.S. cities and regions has found.
Researchers from the two countries found that overall, less than 8 per cent of people who were treated by paramedics or firefighters for cardiac arrests in the home or elsewhere outside hospital were successfully resuscitated.
Seattle had the best survival rate at 16 per cent, while Alabama had the lowest at 3 per cent. In Toronto andOttawa region, just over 5 per cent of treated victims lived, while in Vancouver, 10 per cent survived.
Cardiac arrest is different from - but may be caused by - a heart attack. It occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating and the person is no longer breathing. One major cause is disruption of normal heart contractions, such as that caused by ventricular fibrillation.
Lead author Dr. Graham Nichol of the University of Washington said the key to saving lives is a quick response by bystanders, who need to perform immediate and continuous CPR until paramedics or firefighters arrive to treat and transport the patient to hospital.
In the study, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers looked at more than 20,000 cardiac arrest cases between May 2006 and April 2007. Resuscitation was attempted in less than 12,000 cases - and only 954 of those felled by a cardiac arrest lived to be discharged from hospital.