What is the Chain of Survival?

In order to maintain the oxygen supply to the body a person must be breathing, and their heart
must be pumping blood around the body. If either of these two functions stops, the brain and other vital organs will quickly deteriorate, and brain cells will start to die within 3 to 4 minutes. Unless urgent action is taken to circulate oxygen around the body, this will inevitably result in death.

The most common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in adults is ventricular fibrillation due to disorganized electrical activity. In these circumstances, the best chance of restarting the heart is by using a defibrillator. A defibrillator is a device which delivers an electrical shock to the heart.

For this reason, an emphasis is placed on summoning help and calling for an ambulance as soon as possible. Of course, the heart and brain must be kept oxygenated until the defibrillator arrives; so early Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is vital if a casualty is to recover.

These actions form the links in the Chain of Survival:

Early access

Help is called for quickly so an ambulance (with a defibrillator) can arrive as soon as possible.

Early CPR

CPR is performed to keep the vital organs alive until medical help arrives.

Early defibrillation

Defibrillation must be performed as soon as possible in order to have the best chance of ‘restarting’ the heart.

Early advanced care

Advanced life support treatment is given to stabilize the casualty’s condition.


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