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CPR/AED Awareness Week: Do you know the Cardiac Chain of Survival?

When it comes to Sudden Cardiac Arrest, every second counts. Immediate response from bystanders can mean the difference between a life saved and a life lost, which is why it’s critical to know the Chain of Survival— the chain of events that must quickly occur to maximize the chances of survival for a sudden cardiac arrest victim.


The metaphor was first created to describe the processes of intervention in the case of SCA and included guidelines for “early recognition, early access, early CPR, early defibrillation and early advanced life support” (Newman M, 1989, 1990). It was a simple, yet effective way to educate the public about its vital role in helping SCA victims. Each link in this chain is critical and interdependent on the others.


It starts with recognizing a sudden cardiac arrest—arguably, the most important link in the chain, because if no one recognizes the severity of the event unfolding before them, they’re unlikely to spring to action, wasting precious seconds.


Sudden cardiac arrest literally stops the heart, but the victim can display what’s perceived as abnormal breathing or seizure-like activity, so bystanders don’t realize the extreme urgency to respond. Studies show that when someone suddenly collapses, chances are they are in cardiac arrest and time should not be wasted trying to “wake them up.”


Parent Heart Watch in collaboration with the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation,  created a powerful call to action campaign for what bystanders should do to save a life: Call-Push-Shock.


  1. Call 911 to get help

Always call first – they can often talk you through the rest of the steps if you are unaware of what to do next.


  1. Push to triple the chance of survival


Most adults have been exposed to a form of CPR that includes alternating breaths into the victim’s mouth with chest compressions, but the new standard is to use hands-only CPR—hand over hand, pushing hard and fast in the center of the victim’s chest at a rate of  100 to 120 compressions per minute, being sure to let the chest recoil between compressions.


Bystanders do not need to be certified to start CPR. It is meant to be used immediately by anyone witnessing a cardiac arrest. In fact, a 911 operator will talk a bystander through how to perform CPR if they are unsure. CPR should be continued until EMS arrive. If you are with others, best practice is to take turns administering CPR, as studies show the quality of CPR delivery remains higher when multiple rescuers can share the effort.


  1. Shock to restart the heart


While CPR can be a bridge to life, keeping the oxygenated blood  circulating through the body, the only way to actually restart a heart is with an automated external defibrillator or AED. A common misperception is that AEDs are only for emergency or medical professionals to use. Bystanders think they won’t understand how to use one, or worse, will harm the victim. But publicly accessible AEDs were specifically designed for anyone to use.


Once the device is retrieved and turned on, it talks you through the steps ( several are now bilingual in English and Spanish) and has diagrams for how to set it up. What’s more, an AED won’t shock a person whose heart has not stopped so you can’t hurt someone.


A final step is to tell 911 exactly where you are so EMS can find you and the victim, or better yet, if there are multiple bystanders, send one of them to meet EMS and guide them to the scene.


Learn more about the Cardiac Chain of Survival by watching this video or join our many partners in sharing our Call Push Shock campaign with your friends and colleagues so everyone can be prepared to save a life.



CPR/AED Awareness Week: Do you know the Cardiac Chain of Survival?
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