Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Grim statistics of coronary survival in Northern Ireland

Edwin Poots
Edwin Poots

The value of defibrillators is underlined by statistics which reveal that less than one in 10 people survive a heart attack suffered outside hospital.

Heart disease is the second biggest cause of death in Northern Ireland.

Figures recently released by the Department of Health show that 1,300 cardiac arrests happen outside medical institutions every year here

But fewer than 10% of those patients will survive to be discharged from hospital.

Immediate CPR in some cases can improve the chances of survival.

For every minute that passes in cardiac arrest before defibrillation, chances of survival are reduced by about 10%.

According to UK-wide statistics, there is a survival rate of around 5% with CPR alone, but defibrillation and CPR increases the chances by as much as 50%.

Last month Health Minister Edwin Poots (left) said more people need to be trained to offer emergency skills which are critical to keeping patients alive until professional help arrives.

Almost all GAA clubs in Ireland now have access to a defibrillator following the sudden death of Cormac McAnallen in 2004.

The Tyrone GAA captain passed away at the age of 24 from an undetected heart condition.

Last year Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba was saved by a defibrillator after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch.

 

Frank Pantridge: Northern Ireland man who saved countless lives with portable defibrillator invention

The portable defibrillator was invented by Professor Frank Pantridge and is credited with saving countless lives.

Born in October 1916, he was educated at Friends' School in Lisburn and Queen's University Belfast, graduating in 1939.

During World War II Pantridge served in the Army. He was awarded the Military Cross before the Fall of Singapore where he became a prisoner of war, serving much of his captivity as a slave labourer on the Burma Railway.

After his liberation he worked as a lecturer at Queen's University and studied at the University of Michigan, before returning to Northern Ireland in 1950 where he was appointed cardiac consultant at the Royal Victoria Hospital.

And it was there Pantridge developed a machine that would change the face of medicine.

It was known that thousands of deaths occurred after a heart attack due to ventricular fibrillation, a severely abnormal heart rhythm. This could be corrected via a short but massive electric shock to the heart, and many hospitals equipped themselves with mains defibrillators. But often it was too late, as two-thirds of deaths occurred in the first hour.

While working at the RVH in 1965, Pantridge and colleagues converted a mains defibrillator to operate from car batteries in the back of an ambulance.

It weighed 70kg but by 1968 he had designed an instrument weighing only 3kg, incorporating a miniature capacitor manufactured for NASA.

Pantridge died in 2004. A statue to him stands outside the offices of Lisburn City Council.

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