Great Falls Emergency Services teaches about cardiac arrest

EMT Katelyn Throckmorton
Posted at 9:26 AM, Oct 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-07 11:26:28-04

Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. According to the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, close to half a million cases of cardiac arrests occur in all ages annually. In more than 90 percent of victims, death occurs (source).

Cardiac arrest may be caused by almost any known heart condition. Most cases of sudden cardiac arrest occur in people who have coronary artery disease. This is where the arteries become clogged with cholesterol as well as other deposits, reducing blood flow to the heart.

When speaking with Great Falls Emergency Services, they offer tips on some of the ways you can save your loved ones from a fatal ending. The two common techniques consist of performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and using an AED (automated external defibrillator).

Katelyn Throckmorton is an EMT at Great Falls Emergency Services as well as a coordinator for American Heart Association. She said one of the most important things to know when learning to use CPR or and AED, is first understanding the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

Katelyn said, "In very simple terms, a heart attack is essentially a clot that is keeping good blood flow going to your heart. Your heart's a muscle. We need blood flowing to the heart so it can keep doing its job. Cardiac arrest on the other hand is when your heart is absolutely not functioning the way it should in any way, shape or form. It can be completely misfiring, so it's not actually pumping well, or it's not pumping at all. Everyone on TV sees those flatlines. That's an example of cardiac arrest."

Heart attacks can lead to cardiac arrests in many cases, but the two are different physiologically.

When cardiac arrest occurs in a person, EMS says to always call 911 first, no matter how much experience a person has in CPR.

"If you don't call, we don't show up," Katelyn said.

If prompted to begin CPR, follow the cycle of 30 compressions and two rescue breaths. After five cycles, allow the AED to analyze the rhythm again. Continue CPR until help arrives or until the AED announces rhythm restored.

GFES EMT Chance Ostberg said while the process can seem intimidating, it is simple for nearly everyone who takes training courses.

"It's a really simple thing to learn," Ostberg said. "A lot of people are intimidated because it's stressful, so a lot is going on, but as long as you have the basics down of chest compressions and a little bit of rescue breaths, it's super simple."

In the past several months, Great Falls Emergency Services has responded to 14 cases of ROSC, otherwise referred to as Return of Spontaneous Circulation and a 50% increase in rates of reviving people.

"It (CPR) works quite well on what it's supposed to do," Katelyn said. "We see a massive, positive difference when bystanders start CPR before we get there. We get there, we do our best, but time is time. So, if you see somebody go down, and you can start CPR, and call 911, and get us going there, and we get there, our chances of getting that person back just go through the roof. It's incredible."

For more information on taking CPR courses,