CPR and Emergency Care

Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency causing death if not treated immediately. Most cardiac arrests occur in homes and public places. If someone has collapsed and is unresponsive, you may be able to help save a life by calling 9-1-1 or your local emergency number, and performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and using an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available.

What is cardiac arrest?

Cardiac arrest is a medical emergency. Cardiac refers to the heart. Arrest means stop. Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.

Cardiac arrest is not the same as heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is slowed or stopped because of a blockage. In the case of a heart attack, the heart continues to beat.

Cardiac arrest may have a variety of causes including heart disease, drowning, stroke, electrocution, suffocation, drug overdose or injury.

Signs of a cardiac arrest include:

  • sudden collapse
  • sudden unresponsiveness to touch or sound and
  • abnormal or no breathing.

What is CPR?

CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is an emergency procedure that can restore blood flow to someone suffering cardiac arrest, keeping the victim alive until advanced medical care arrives.

What is an AED?

An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a device that can check heart rhythms and deliver an electrical shock to restore its natural rhythms when needed.

How can CPR and an AED help?

When the heart stops beating in cardiac arrest, it no longer pumps blood to the body. The brain and organs can be seriously damaged without oxygen and nutrients from blood and the person can die within minutes if not treated immediately. CPR can help maintain blood flow and ventilation in a victim of cardiac arrest for a short period.

Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) such as ventricular fibrillation cause most cardiac arrests. Using an AED can restore the heart’s normal rhythm in the event of cardiac arrest.

What can you do?

Most cardiac arrests occur in homes and public places, and many are witnessed by a family member, co-worker or friend. The survival rate of cardiac arrest outside a hospital is very low. Performing CPR and using an AED before Emergency Medical Services arrive can increase the chance of survival by up to 75%. AEDs are safe and easy to use. The Foundation urges anyone in close contact with those at high-risk of cardiac arrest to become trained in the use of AEDs.

If you are with an adult who has a cardiac arrest:

Yell for help

  • Tell someone to call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number and get an AED (if one is available).
  • If you are alone, call 9-1-1 and get an AED (if one is available).

Check breathing

  • If the person isn't breathing or is only gasping, give CPR.

Push hard and push fast

  • Use an AED as soon as it arrives by turning it on and following the prompts.
  • Keep pushing until the person starts to breathe or move or someone with more advanced training takes over.