While cardiac arrest and heart attack are terms often used interchangeably, they are not the same thing, according to the American Heart Association. A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is restricted. A cardiac arrest, on the other hand, happens when the heart suddenly stops beating because of an electrical malfunction.
For the study, researchers analyzed 7,842 people who had cardiac arrests in private residences. All were treated by emergency services after a 911 call.
Of the 5,998 people who lived below the third floor of their buildings, 4.2 percent survived. That is almost two percent higher than the 2.6 percent survival rate of those living on the third floor or above. In addition, less than one percent of those living above the 16th floor made it to the hospital and not a single person living above the 25th floor survived.
Disturbingly, an automated external defibrillator (AED) device–which is used to shock the heart back into pumping normally–was rarely used no matter what floor a person lived on.
Overall, the data showed that it takes more time for first responders to reach patients who live on higher floors. This delay is significant because just a few seconds can decide whether a cardiac arrest victim lives or dies.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating completely. If a person is found right after the event occurs, the heart usually can be reset. But if too much time passes, it often is too late to save the victim.
It is essential that CPR, or chest compressions, and other medical assistance be given as quickly as possible, Fox News reports.
“The 911 response time, from emergency activation to arrival of first responders on scene, will remain relatively constant, so long as traffic patterns do not change; however, the time from arrival on scene to initial patient contact may increase as more of the population comes to live at or above the third floor,” write the authors.
The study shows that responders took an average of six minutes from the time of the 911 call to arrive at the building. However, first contact with the patient took an additional three minutes for those on the first or second floor compared to nearly five minutes for those who lived higher up.
Medics face numerous obstacles going into residential buildings, such as needing to go through one or more outer doors, having to use an intercom system, navigating a wide lobby, finding an elevator, and tracking down the specific apartment they are looking for.
To help with this problem, the researchers suggest that buildings and residents develop some sort of emergency response plan. It would help if some people in the building were trained in both CPR as well as how to use AEDs. There also should be someone to ensure that responders have easy and immediate access to the building and elevators.
While many who reside in high-rises do not need to worry about the study’s results, people known to be at risk for cardiac arrest should take the floor they live on into consideration when moving.