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Surviving a Cardiac Arrest



In the event of cardiac arrest or heart attack, speed and quick treatment are essential. At Flagstaff Medical Center, providing comprehensive and timely cardiac care is a key priority.

As a designated Cardiac Arrest Center, FMC offers cutting-edge technology, top pre-hospital emergency medical services and skilled physicians available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. FMC’s Cardiac Arrest Center utilizes not only staff and physician expertise in the Cardiac Catheterization Labs and Intensive Care Units, but therapeutic hypothermia protocols which can substantially increase a person’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest.

The therapeutic hypothermia treatment offered at FMC helps protect the brain after cardiac arrest. Following cardiac arrest, patients whose hearts have started beating again but who are unconscious will have their body temperature lowered to 91° F (33°C) for 24 hours. The lower body temperature limits the release of damaging chemicals in the bloodstream and prevents potential brain damage. When combined with adequate emergency care, hypothermia treatment can have a tremendous impact on cardiac arrest survival rates.

“Less than 5 percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside a hospital survive,” said Jennifer Conn, M.D., medical director of FMC’s Emergency Department. “When a patient is taken to a Cardiac Arrest Center after receiving bystander CPR and prompt emergency care, their survival rates more than double.”

FMC’s Cardiac Arrest Center is prepared to care for patients facing life-threatening cardiac emergencies. However, care begins before a patient ever reaches the hospital. “Hospital care and hypothermia treatment are just two steps in the treatment of cardiac emergencies,” Dr. Conn said. “The coordinated efforts of our Cardiac Arrest Center, Guardian Medical Transport, other emergency medical system agencies and bystander CPR result in comprehensive cardiac care and saved lives.”

Chain of Survival

Each year, more than 166,000 Americans experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital. In the vast majority of cases, cardiac arrest is fatal, especially if the victim doesn’t get immediate attention.

The chance of surviving a cardiac arrest substantially improves when communities, emergency services and hospitals work together – ensuring a chain of survival.

“The “chain of survival” doesn’t just rest on trained medical personnel and hospitals,” said James Dwyer, M.D., medical director of the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona. The Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona offers a comprehensive system of inpatient and outpatient cardiac and vascular care to the people of Northern and Central Arizona, including a network of physician offices and clinics in Flagstaff, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Sedona and Winslow.

“Patients have the best chance of survival when bystanders immediately start performing CPR with continuous chest compressions (CCC).”

The second link in the chain is the treatment provided by emergency medical personnel. FMC and local emergency medical service (EMS) agencies have teamed up to provide faster and more comprehensive care during a life-threatening cardiac event. “A 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) can now be done by paramedics at the scene of a heart attack victim,” Dwyer said. “This ECG can be transmitted to FMC’s Emergency Department, allowing for early mobilization of the cardiac team which helps save precious minutes in the care of these patients.”

Lastly, once the patient arrives at the hospital, emergency physicians, cardiologists, and medical staff use their expertise and the latest technology to offer the patient the greatest chance of survival.

Guardian Medical Transport trains the community

FMC’s Guardian Medical Transport is leading the way when it comes to training the community on how to perform Continuous Chest Compressions or Hands-Only CPR. In less than two years, GMT staff  has trained more than 9,000 people in Flagstaff on how to perform life-saving Hands-Only CPR. GMT is available to go to work, family, church or social functions to provide training. To request a free hands-on training session, call 928 213-6270.

Be a Life Saver

When someone collapses and his or her heart has stopped, continuous chest compressions (CCC) without mouth-to-mouth breathing could save a life.

Follow these simple instructions:

• Call 911 – either you or a bystander.
• Position the victim on the floor on his/her back.
• Put your hands on top of each other putting the heel of the bottom hand on the center of the victim’s chest.
• Lock your elbows and begin forceful chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute.
• After each chest compression make sure you lift the heel of the hand completely off of the chest.
• If an AED (automated external defibrillator) is available, turn the unit on and follow the voice instructions.
• If an AED is not available, perform continuous chest compressions until paramedics arrive.
• CCC can be tiring; when possible, take turns with others after doing 100 compressions.
• In suspected drowning or drug overdose, follow CPR procedures (alternate 30 chest compressions with two mouth-to-mouth breaths).


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