What is Sudden Cardiac Arrest?
Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating unexpectedly. It is generally triggered by an electrical malfunction or a blocked blood vessel in the heart that causes the heart muscle to beat ineffectively.
As soon as the heart stops beating, blood can no longer flow to the brain, heart and lungs. A person in sudden cardiac arrest will be unconscious and will stop breathing or will not be breathing normally (they can make gasping noises or may be breathing irregularly).
Urgent treatment is required to get the blood moving around the body and try to restart the heart.
If you witness a sudden cardiac arrest call Triple Zero (000) immediately.
What to do… It’s time to JUMP IN
Make sure it is safe to approach. Check for any response from the victim. Tilt the head back, lift the chin and check breathing.
If someone is not conscious or isn’t breathing normally, it is likely they are having a cardiac arrest. They need urgent help!
Jump Defibrillators supports the “restart a heart” campaign which recommends the following steps for a suspected sudden cardiac arrest:
1. CALL 000
Call Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for an Ambulance
Don’t hang up! The Triple Zero (000) Call-taker will stay on the phone until an Ambulance arrives and may need to ask you more questions
The Call-taker will talk you through what to do
Place the heel of your hand in the centre of the chest and the other hand on top
Push hard and fast in the centre of the chest
Push to a rate of 100-120 compressions every minute (2 compressions every second) or push to the beat of “Staying Alive”.
Push hard. You can’t do any harm, but you may save a life.
If you have learned how to do it, provide 2 rescue breaths between every 30 compressions, otherwise push the chest continuously.
If a defibrillator (also known as AED) is available, switch it on immediately – it will tell you what to do.
You do not need any training to use an AED. Learn more.
Using a defibrillator
A defibrillator (also known as automated external defibrillator, or AED) can apply a controlled electric shock to try to restart the heart.
In Australia there is currently a distinct lack of AEDs available to save a life. They can be used by anyone, with or without training, as they provide voice prompts and pictures to guide you through what to do.
If needed, an AED will deliver a controlled electric shock to try to ‘restart’ the heart. It will not deliver a shock if it is not required and you will not do any harm by putting an AED on someone who is unconscious. The AED will also tell you when to pause and restart CPR – just follow the voice instructions. You can’t do any harm, but you may save a life!
When CPR and an AED are used in the first few minutes after a cardiac arrest, the chances of survival are the greatest.
Sudden cardiac arrest often occurs without warning and can happen anywhere and at any time. It can affect people of all ages, including young people who are otherwise fit and healthy. People may have a sudden cardiac arrest at their workplace, school, sporting club or in their own home. That’s why it is important for everyone to know what to do. The person needing life-saving action may be someone you know!
Sudden cardiac arrest versus heart attack
Sudden cardiac arrest is different to a heart attack. The symptoms and management are also different.
A person experiencing a heart attack (myocardial infarction) will usually be alert and breathing. They will usually have symptoms of chest pain, possibly radiating into their arm or jaw, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea. In a sudden cardiac arrest, the person will not be conscious or breathing normally, so they will need immediate help by calling Triple Zero (000), starting chest compressions and using a defibrillator. A heart attack (myocardial infarction) can often deteriorate to cause a sudden cardiac arrest, and in all these cases treatment for a sudden cardiac arrest is required.