When it’s a matter of life and death, every second matter. But it is the time in hand that helps a person to decide what needs to be done next.
There is a huge difference what one should or can do when a person has an hour to save someone’s life compared to when a person has only got seconds. What course of action one should take changes drastically in the two scenarios.
The difference between having a golden hour and having golden seconds to save a life is almost the same difference as that of suffering a heart attack and suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.
The golden hour in emergency medicine
“The concept of the golden hour is the vital time period of up to one hour by which a patient suffering from traumatic injury or medical emergency should be receiving proper medical assistance to prevent death or irreparable damage to other body parts and organs. Although nothing is set in stone, the chances to save a patient are usually really high if he receives due medical attention within an hour of the traumatic event,” says Dr Vanita Arora, senior consultant, cardiac electrophysiologist & interventional cardiologist, Max Super Speciality Hospital.
Therefore, in an event of heart attack, it is often advised to take the patient to emergency care within an hour of the onset of the heart attack. But the same cannot be said about someone who is suffering a cardiac arrest.
Confusing heart attack with cardiac arrest
Most people use the words heart attack and cardiac arrest interchangeably; in fact almost synonymously. But the two are very different things. Similarly, heart attack and cardiac arrest are two separate events related to the heart.
Heart attack: A patient suffers the heart attack when the oxygenated blood is unable to reach the heart, which pumps it to the rest of the body. During a heart attack, the heart only partially loses the ability to pump blood. The heart continues to pump blood but with lower efficiency even when the patient is suffering a heart attack. A person suffering heart attack can go on for minutes to few hours in the condition, and yet survive. However, it is important to take the patient to emergency as early as possible because the decreased flow of oxygenated blood to brain and organs can cause severe damage, trigger stroke, and even sudden cardiac arrest.
While suffering cardiac arrest, the heart of a patient stops functioning due to problems in the electrical system of the heart, disrupting the pumping action. As a result, the blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body stops. Within seconds, the person drops down unconscious and has no pulse, and within minutes, he/she might die.
Cardiac arrest: The question that arises is what then is a cardiac arrest? Cardiac arrest can occur suddenly, without any warning. While suffering cardiac arrest, the heart of a patient stops functioning due to problems in the electrical system of the heart, disrupting the pumping action. As a result, the blood flow to the brain and other parts of the body stops. Within seconds, the person drops down unconscious and has no pulse, and within minutes, he/she might die.
The connection between heart attack and cardiac arrest: Heart attack is one of the many factors that lead to cardiac arrest. Poor cardiovascular health, heart diseases, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats are some of the other factors that may disrupt the electrical system of the heart and trigger cardiac arrest.
Here’s what to do in the ‘Golden Seconds’ of a cardiac arrest
While in the case of heart attack, an attendant or rescuer has the golden hour to take the patient to a hospital, in the case of cardiac arrest, one has got precious, golden seconds. Therefore, it is all the more important to identify the symptoms of cardiac arrest and take immediate action.
When a person suffers cardiac arrest, one should immediately call for an ambulance, and simultaneously perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Performing CPR involves hard pressing on the chest with hands, with the speed of 120 compressions per minute. This should be performed till the time medical help arrives. Any form of CPR is better than NO CPR.
“As was mentioned earlier, heart attack and cardiac arrest are not the same and cannot be used in one breath, just like ‘innocence and ignorance’. It becomes our responsibility to be more aware rather than claim innocence or ignorance of the two heart conditions, especially in the case of cardiac arrest, where we only have golden seconds to save a life,” says Arora.