EMS responders play a critical role in the treatment and, potentially, the prevention of the opioid epidemic we face today. Due to the staggering amount of deaths to opioid overdoses, it has been deemed a public health crisis. Opioids are responsible for decreasing the sensation of pain for the user by stimulating certain receptors in the brain. The lack of any perceived pain induces a feeling of euphoria- the feeling chased by opioid abusers.
The umbrella of opioids include heroin and several prescription painkillers such as methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl. During an opioid overdose, the patient experiences difficulty breathing and often respiratory arrest. Unfortunately, following respiratory arrest, a common secondary outcome of an opioid overdose occurs: cardiac arrest.
EMS responders often use naloxone which reverses the effects of opioid overdose, making it possible for the patient to breathe again. This drug is time sensitive and administering it can be a risky decision. Naloxone can prompt narcotic withdrawal symptoms and if it is administered too aggressively, the patient may have violent reactions. Since cardiac arrest frequently follows respiratory arrest, it is important to check the patient’s pulse and have an AED nearby in case the patient needs to be resuscitated. It is important to abide by the local rules if you have to administer naloxone to a patient in cardiac arrest.
With the help of properly and safely administered naloxone and timely use of an AED, many lives can and will be saved. EMS responders play a vital role in helping to decrease opioid overdoses every day. With the proper rehabilitation and education opportunities, this public health crisis may, one day, be less prevalent.
For more information about cardiac emergency preparedness, please visit www.aed.com.
Though heart attack and cardiac arrest may sound similar, these medical emergencies could not be more different. A person suffering from a heart attack has a blocked artery preventing the blood flow to the heart, while a cardiac arrest is a result of an electrical disturbance in heart. This malfunction causes an irregular heartbeat, which prevents blood from pumping to the brain, lungs and other organs.
Recognize the symptoms
The symptoms of a cardiac arrest and heart attack are drastically different. In moments, a person can go into cardiac arrest. Usually, a victim will become unresponsive and stop breathing unexpectedly or start gasping for air. Whereas for a heart attack, symptoms can be immediate, but also have the potential to start out slowly, lasting for hours, days or even weeks prior to a heart attack. Major symptoms include shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea, and vomiting. It could also cause a strong discomfort in the chest as well as other parts of the upper body. Women may experience different symptoms than men such as back or jaw pain.
How to respond to both
Call 9-1-1. If a person believes he or she is having a heart attack or cardiac arrest, do not hesitate to call 9-1-1. Regardless of whether or not you know the type of emergency, it’s important to get help on the way as soon as possible. The sooner emergency medical services arrive, the faster they can start treatment. Remember, every second counts! For some victims, a cardiac arrest or heart attack can be reversible if treated in time.
Take action. Is it a cardiac arrest? Start preforming CPR right away. Should an automated external defibrillator (AED) be available, quickly use it to help the victim. If possible, have a second person call the emergency number while responding to the person in need of treatment.
More than 1,000 people will suffer a non-traumatic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) every day, says a 2014 report by the American Heart Association. Among those who experience OHCA, the overall survival rate is approximately 10 percent. For younger victims, the survival rate decreases to about 5 percent.
For some, odds can increase with automated external defibrillation. According to the report, 23 percent of EMS-treated OHCA cases have initial rhythm of ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. This means treatment with an AED could improve chances of survival.
Learn more about OHCAs below:
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in adults
- Approximately 424,000 people experience a non-traumatic OHCA every year
- Of those victims, 60 percent are treated by EMS
- Having a family history of cardiac arrest or prior heart disease is a major risk factor for cardiac arrest
- There’s a higher percentage (10.2 percent) of survival among those who received chest compressions alone rather than chest compressions and rescue breathing (8.5 percent)
Out of hospital cardiac arrest in youth
- Nearly 9,500 children under the age of 18 suffer a non-traumatic OHCA
- Following an EMS-treated non-traumatic OHCA, only about an estimated 5.4 percent of youth survive to hospital discharge
- Almost 7,000 fatalities occur in children each year due to OHCA