JUN 19, 2017 8:31 PM PDT

Beating the Ambulance: App Calls Upon Passers-By for Response to Cardiac Arrest

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Three minutes could mean the difference between life and death for someone in cardiac arrest. A new smartphone application from experts at the European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) is said to send a first responder to a scene of cardiac arrest three minutes before an ambulance arrives with EMTs and paramedics.

"Sudden cardiac arrest is lethal within minutes if left untreated," said EHRA spokesperson Dr Christian Elsner. "In Europe, the emergency services arrive around nine minutes after a cardiac arrest. Every minute earlier raises the probability of survival by 10% and reduces the risk of brain injury, which starts four minutes after cardiac arrest." The new technology is called the EHRA First Responder App.

Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack; it is the sudden loss of heart function due to preexisting heart disease. Cardiac arrest is caused by the malfunction of the electrical signals employed by the heart muscle to keep a regular rhythm. The best response to cardiac rest is immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to keep the heart pumping and to prevent death. If available, an automated external defibrillator (AED), a machine that delivers an electric shock to restart the heart, should be used in between CPR chest compressions.

The longer a person in cardiac arrest goes without receiving CPR while waiting for an ambulance, the greater their risk of long-term health repercussions. Researchers estimate that between 30 and 60 percent of cardiac arrest patients receive CPR from bystanders who happened to be near by at the time of the incident. The new EHRA app could greatly increase that rate.

Credit: FirstResponderApp.com


The app uses GPS tracking technology, and it taps into existing emergency services like 911 in the United States, known as 112 in other countries. Those bystanders able to help are called “app rescuers,” and the closest rescuers would be directed by the emergency operator to the scene of cardiac arrest at the same time as an ambulance.

600 app rescuers volunteered for a practice-run of the app in a city in Germany called Lubeck. "Recruitment of the app rescuers was no problem at all because people want to help," Elsner explained. Over one-third of cardiac arrest calls were answered by an app rescuer who arrived more than three minutes before an ambulance. The app is expected to soon become used in more German cities.

"Ultimately we will roll the app out across Europe,” Elsner said. “We hope to raise bystander resuscitation rates to 70-90% and for cardiac arrest patients to be resuscitated in three to four minutes on average.”

More information on the new technology can be found at http://www.firstresponderapp.com/.


Source: European Society of Cardiology, American Heart Association

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
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