This week we will continue our discussion about life-saving priorities by discussing the importance of an open airway, maintaining circulation and restoring heart rhythm.
Importance of an Open Airway
According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, an unconscious victim’s airway can become narrowed or blocked. This may be due to muscular control being lost, which allows the tongue to fall back and block the airway. When this happens, the victim’s breathing become difficult and noisy and may stop. Lifting the chin and tilting the head back lifts the tongue away from the entrance to the air passage, allowing the victim to breathe.
If the heart stops beating, blood does not circulate through the body. As a result, vital organs – most importantly the brain – become starved of oxygen. Brain cells are unable to survive for more than a few minutes without a supply of oxygen. Some circulation can be maintained artificially by chest compressions. These act as a mechanical aid to the heart in order to get blood flowing around the body. Pushing vertically down on the center of the chest increases the pressure in the chest cavity, expelling blood from the heart and forcing it into the tissues. As pressure on the chest is released, the chest recoils, or comes back up, and more blood “sucked” into the heart; this blood is then forced out of the heart by the next compression.
To ensure that the blood is supplied with enough oxygen, chest compressions can be combined with rescue breathing. However, even if you do not feel comfortable providing rescue breaths, it is very important that you still provide chest compressions.
Restoring Heart Rhythm
A machine called an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be used to attempt to restart the heart when it has stopped. The earlier the AED is used, the greater the chance of the victim surviving. With each minute’s delay, the chances of survival fall.
Before using and AED you should be trained in its use and be able to carry out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), in particular, chest compressions.
AED’s can now be found in many public places, such as railroad stations, shopping centers, airports, and bus stations. They are generally housed in cabinets, often marked with a lightning bolt, and placed where they can be easily accessed.
We hope that you have learned something about life-saving priorities. Next week we are going to be talking about the heart and blood vessels.
If you need any CPR / AED / First Aid / Bloodborne Pathogen training, please contact us.