Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don’t pause before defibrillating

For patients who are treated for heart failure outside of hospitals, even a few extra seconds between administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and applying a defibrillator can mean the difference between life and death.  Sheldon Cheskes and a team of Canadian and American researchers and doctors found that for every five seconds of delay between CPR and electric shock, survival decreased by 18%.

Defibrillators are used to deliver an electric charge to an ailing heart.  The electric shock depolarizes the heart muscle, stopping any erratic rhythms and allowing the heart to restart with a normal beat.  Often, health care providers (and bystanders) will try CPR before and after applying a defibrillator shock to a heart attack victim. According to the researchers, pausing between the two resuscitation methods can spell disaster.

This means that emergency care providers must be prepared to coordinate their care as much as possible.  One person must be ready with the defibrillator as soon as the other person stops performing CPR.  Needless to say, this is not always going to be easy or even possible.  Still, it’s good to know the ideal standard of care.