16 October 2014 = European Restart a Heart Day
Last year we celebrated the very first ‘European Restart a Heart Day’ – to teach members of the public how to help restart the heart of someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. This initiative, that will take place every year on October 16, aims to improve the very low numbers of people surviving out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.
Every year, around 350,000 Europeans suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). OHCA occur anywhere, for example in the street, at work, or while exercising or doing other strenuous activity. Unfortunately, the vast majority happen at home, where family members are the only witnesses and the only ones with the chance to save their loved ones. It adds to the tragedy of the situation that we would loose a loved one just because we did not know what to do in case of sudden cardiac arrest. Bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by lay people increases survival by 2-3 times, however, today it is delivered in only 1 in 5 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. That is why less than 1 in 10 of these patients survive today. Increasing this rate may save 100,000 lives in Europe per year. “Unfortunately, only a small minority of cardiac arrest victims receive this vital help in time to save their life,” says Professor Maaret Castrén, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, and chair of the ERC.
More people learning how to restart a heart could save 100,000 lives per year across Europe, says the European Resuscitation Council
Bystander CPR rates vary widely across Europe, with Andalusia in Spain as low as 12%, Germany 15%, through to very high rates in the Netherlands (61%) and Sweden (59%). The actual survival rate varies with the setting, with some countries having survival as low as 6%, whereas countries with an excellent record in bystander CPR such as the Netherlands and Norway see survival rates as high as 40%. “If we could improve rates of bystander CPR in Europe to the levels seen in these best-performing nations, then around 100,000 lives could be saved each year across Europe,” says Prof Castrén. “We are certain that if more people were trained (e.g. all relatives of high-risk population with cardiovascular diseases or families of people who already survived cardiac arrest or heart attack), 50% of the deaths by cardiac arrest could effectively be prevented,” she adds.
To put these numbers in context, the estimate of 350,000 OHCA deaths is equivalent to 1,000 deaths per day every day of the year across Europe.
By performing CPR you can do nothing wrong, the only thing that can be wrong is doing nothing.
“CPR is easier than most people think and saves lives,” adds Professor Castrén. “People are understandably nervous about doing CPR but our campaign will show that it is a straightforward procedure that can be performed by most people. Members of the general public really have the power and ability to save lives in these circumstances. Even a modest increase in the proportion of the public doing CPR in this scenario could save many lives.”