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Health Notes: September 2016

09/06/2016 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey

by Ellen S. Mullen M.D.

In January of 1988 a 40 year-old man suffered a cardiac arrest while playing a pick-up basketball game with friends. He collapsed without any chest pain. This is commonly referred to as sudden cardiac death. The American Heart Association says there are around 700,000 cardiac arrests annually in the United States and of those 325,000 are from sudden cardiac death. 

Thankfully technology has kept up with the medical emergencies we face and provided us with a great tool to combat cardiac arrest, the AED. The AED or Automated External Defibrillator can be found in 2.4 million places in the United States. AEDs are manufactured by numerous companies but they all work basically the same. The AEDs that are available in highly populated areas or schools all have an audio processor that will talk to you when the AED is opened and some call 911 automatically.  

If you come across someone who is not responsive, follow the AHA guidelines and see if the person is unconscious. If so, call 911 and begin chest compressions. Most community programs have played down the importance of breathing for the patient initially during the  emergency. After 2 minutes of CPR if possible have someone help you place the pads on the chest, according to the diagram on the pads, and turn the AED on. At this point the machine will tell you it is analyzing the patients heart rhythm. If the patient is in a heart rhythm that requires the AED to shock it will tell everyone to STAND BACK and you will hear the AED charging. It will then tell you to CLEAR THE PATIENT prior to delivering the shock. Once the shock is delivered begin chest compressions and look for signs of life. The combination of early CPR and early defibrillation has increased the numbers of patients saved. One study showed a 90% save rate if the defibrillator shocks within one minute from the patient losing his/her pulse. Maybe an AED could have saved the man playing basketball with his friends. He was not just a basketball player but LSU basketball great Pete Maravich. 

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