Cardiac arrest survival rates increase when fire and police responders act

Researchers have shown through a new study that cardiac arrest survival rates increase when fire and police responders act and intervene in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

One of the key things in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests is how quickly first responders “get on the chest” of the patient. Every minute CPR is not initiated or an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is not utilized, the chance of survival decreases by 7-10%.

Researchers from Michigan Medicine analyzed more than 25,000 cardiac arrest incidents in the state from 2014 to 2019. They found that police and fire first responders initiated CPR in 31.8% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, and police accounted for AED use in 6.1% of incidents. Those interventions were associated with significantly higher chances of survival and hospital discharge with good neurological outcomes.

Scientists say that there is clear evidence that non-medical first responders play a critical role in time saved to chest compressions.

In fact, in communities that were the highest performing in the state as far as survival is concerned, those responders work closely with emergency medical services to cross-train and debrief after incidents. When these agencies see their role as not just preventing crime or stopping fires, but also saving lives, it improves the overall chain of survival for cardiac events.

The likelihood of the return of a sustained heart rhythm for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest didn’t change significantly when CPR or defibrillation was initiated by an EMS provider versus a non-medical first responder. However, the survival rate for initiation by non-medical first responders was significantly higher.

In fact, for patients who had CPR initiated by non-medical first responders, the odds of survival were 1.25 times higher. Similarly, patients who had an AED applied by police were 1.4 times more likely to survive.

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