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Cardiac arrest: Fast action saves lives

March 13, 2018—If you spot the signs of sudden cardiac arrest in an adult, do you know what to do? First, tell someone to call 911 and to get an automated external defibrillator (AED), if one is nearby. If you are alone with an adult with signs of cardiac arrest, call 911 first and get an AED if one is available. Perform CPR until an AED arrives. (Need a CPR refresher? Learn how to do hands-only CPR.) As soon as an AED arrives, use it.

Here's how, according to the American Red Cross:

  1. Turn on the AED and follow the prompts.
  2. Open the person's shirt and wipe their chest dry.
  3. Attach the pads and plug in the connector, if necessary.
  4. Make sure no one (including you) is touching the person. Tell everyone to "stand clear."
  5. Push the analyze button (if necessary). The AED will analyze the heart rhythm.
  6. If the AED recommends shocking the person, again make sure no one is touching the person. Then press the "shock" button.
  7. Begin CPR after giving the shock. If no shock is advised, begin CPR. Perform two minutes of CPR and continue to follow the AED's prompts. If you notice obvious signs of life, discontinue CPR and monitor breathing for changes in condition.

A literal lifesaver

AEDs deliver an electrical shock to the heart. They can be found in many public places, like shopping malls and schools, and the authors of a new study say they should be even more widespread. That's because if every shockable cardiac arrest observed in public were treated with an AED by a bystander, 3,459 more lives could be saved each year, the researchers projected.

The research appears in the journal Circulation.

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