Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates Vary Widely

Ventricular fibrillation was singled out, because "it can be treated successfully with a defibrillator," which delivers a heartbeat-restoring shock, Nichol said. "But it is not so simple as putting defibrillators into a community setting. You need a system of response which includes recognition and treatment by the public."

The study is an important first step toward improving emergency treatment of cardiac arrest, said Dr. Lance Becker, director of the Center for Resuscitation Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and a spokesman for the American Heart Association

"If you don't measure something, you don't know what you are doing and can't fix it," Becker said. "This is one of the largest studies ever done, beginning to make communities better and safer places to live in terms of surviving cardiac arrest. Communities with lower survival rates have an opportunity to work on improving those rates and improving their chain of survival."

More information

The signs of cardiac arrest and how to respond to them are described by the American Heart Association.

SOURCES: Graham Nichol, M.D., professor, medicine, University of Washington, Seattle; Comilla Sasson, M.D., Robert Wood Johnson Clinic Scholar, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Arthur B. Sanders, professor, medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson; Lance Becker, M.D., director, Center for Resuscitation Sciences, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Sept. 24, 2008, Journal of the American Medical Association

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