Cardiac study shows value of rapid help: First aid crucial in surviving heart attack

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The Independent Online
HEART-ATTACK victims who receive on-the-spot resuscitation from untrained amateurs are twice as likely to survive as those treated only after an ambulance arrives at the scene.

A new study suggests that scores of lives could be saved each year if more attempts were made to resuscitate people who collapsed in the street or home, even if the first aiders did not know the correct mouth-to- mouth techniques or heart massage.

Stuart Cobbe, professor of medical cardiology at the University of Glasgow, said the findings showed for the first time, the importance of 'bystander involvement - however inexpert'. Speaking at the British Cardiac Society meeting in London yesterday, he said: 'Even if you are not trained, it is worth attempting. Most people have seen how it is done on television, on the programme Casualty, and they have some idea.'

The HeartStart Scotland study followed 1,700 people who had heart attacks outside of hospital. More than 10 per cent of lives (174) were saved, due largely to the use of defibrillators which shock the heart back to its normal rhythm. But a surprising finding was that the survival rate of patients who underwent resuscitation prior to defibrillation by ambulance crews was twice that of patients for whom defibrillation was the only on-site treatment given, Professor Cobbe said.

Dr Michael Rigby, a paediatric cardiologist at the Royal Brompton National Heart and Lung Hospital in London, told the conference that a new 'umbrella' technique could replace open-heart surgery for babies born with a hole in the heart.

Nine babies had now been treated successfully as day or overnight cases, using an umbrella-like device which is threaded to the heart through a vein in the leg. 'Once the umbrella is in place, it can be 'put up' at the site of the hole, allowing closure without the need for surgery,' Dr Rigby said.

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