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A cardiac arrest is defined as when the heart stops beating, the person stops breathing, and the brain shuts down due to a lack of blood flow. It has been estimated there are over a million cardiac arrest events that take place in North America and the European Union every year. Cardiac arrest, which is synonymous with death, from a clinical point of view, is a potentially salvageable situation, and thus, in the early stages when people have died, it may be possible to restore the blood flow and restart the heart through medical intervention, and thus bring the person back to life. Medical studies have shown, after attempts to restart the heart, it is possible to reactivate the heart in around about 20-50 percent of cases. However, sadly, those people who are originally been revived still die due to various complications. Actual survival rates to discharge from hospital are much lower. In the cases in which a cardiac arrest has taken place outside the hospital setting, survival rates to discharge may vary from 1-15 percent. And in most cases of cardiac arrest that take place in hospital settings, discharge rates are best around about 25%. The return of spontaneous circulation, ROSC, is the resumption of sustained cardiac activity associated with significant respiratory effort after cardiac arrest.

Signs of ROSC include breathing, coughing or movement, and the palpable pulse and immeasurable blood pressure. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillation increase the chance of ROSC. Following the initial recovery of a heartbeat after resuscitation attempts, which may take place in up to 50% of cases, there is significant damage that takes place to the vital organs of the body, such that the majority of the people eventually die from these complications. It is estimated that a third of cases die from brain or neurological damage, a third die from heart or myocardial damage, and the other third die from various inflammatory processes that have taken place. In the brain, it's been shown that oxygen levels that are stored within the cells rapidly deplete when they are around about two minutes to reach a point where they get to zero. Furthermore, at the same time, there is a rapid depletion of energy stores, and this leads to the accumulation of toxic materials that are no longer being cleared out of the cells. These include molecules such as lactate and acid. There is massive cell damage and ultimately cell death as a consequence of these processes. From a first aid perspective, there is not much we can do for future brain damage, but we can monitor and manage the patient's health.

When someone is breathing, we need to monitor their breathing and pulse. Monitor their blood pressure and oxygen saturation, if possible. Give oxygen to the patient, place them in a recovery position, be ready just in case the patient goes into cardiac arrest, and give as much information to medical professionals as possible. And this can include downloads from the data of your AED unit.