Why a defibrillator alone doesn’t guarantee Cardiac Arrest survival

Why a defibrillator alone doesn’t guarantee Cardiac Arrest survival

Aaron Curran
Posted by Aaron Curran

Date: Wednesday, 17 January 2024. -  
Blog, First Aid, First Aid Emergencies

Once someone enters Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), the only guaranteed way to stop the heart fibrillating and restart a normal beating rhythm is to deliver a shock from a defibrillator.

Whilst the heart is in cardiac arrest, vital oxygen is not being pumped around the body and to vital organs. This is why beginning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately is crucial

How to identify a cardiac arrest

The signs of SCA may be hard to spot initially, and some symptoms are shared with a heart attack- but the two are very different things.


SCA is caused by a sudden change in the heart’s rhythm which leads activity in the heart to stop. Breathing stops and the person quickly becomes unconscious; immediate action must be taken to prevent permanent brain damage and death.


While often displaying some of the same symptoms as SCA, a heart attack is typically caused by a blockage in one of the coronary arteries which then starves the heart of oxygen and it begins to die.

The importance of CPR during cardiac arrest

If someone around you suffers an SCA, you should call 999 and begin CPR immediately.


A combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths is absolutely vital to keep blood and oxygen flowing to vital organs. Performing effective chest compressions acts as a manual pump for the heart, continuing to push vital blood around the body, and rescue breaths fill the lungs with oxygen.


Every second that the heart isn’t beating on its own increases the risk of permanent brain damage and death due to lack of oxygen. CPR buys precious time prior to a defibrillator shock being given.


After 30 compressions, two rescue breaths must be given, and this should be repeated until paramedics arrive or until the casualty stabilises following a shock.


 Image- BBC News

High profile Sudden Cardiac Arrests

SCA has been more widely acknowledged in recent years as a result of high profile incidents involving professional footballers.


On March 17 2012, an FA Cup tie between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur almost ended in tragedy as Bolton star Fabrice Muamba, then 23, collapsed after suffering a SCA.


Muamba was given the best chance of survival as medics in the stadium began administering first aid immediately, with the use of CPR and a defibrillator.


In total, the Bolton player was given 15 shocks with a defibrillator to regain consciousness. Two on the pitch, one in the tunnel, and 12 shocks were given in the ambulance.


If Fabrice had not been given prompt CPR, his miraculous story may have ended very differently. 


At Euro 2020, a game between Denmark and Finland was brought to a stop near the end of the first half after Denmark ace Christian Eriksen collapsed while unchallenged from another player.


The then  29-year-old had suffered  a cardiac arrest and received CPR as well as shocks from a defibrillator on the pitch.


Eriksen was saved by the quick actions of medics at the stadium, and now continues to play football with a implantable cardioverter-defibrillator.


In February 2024, former Wales and Real Madrid footballer Gareth Bale had revealed that he had installed a defibrillator at his home, as well as buying one for his family members. 


The 34-year old stated that he wants to cope with the risk of SCA for himself and his family, adding that “you never know what might happen”. 


At Imperative Training, we want to make sure that everyone has the same chance at survival, whether they are in a packed stadium or just their place of work.

Save a life by learning effective CPR

Imperative Training recognises the need for everyone to be confident in the event that first aid and CPR needs to be administered. That is why we are so passionate about what we do, as the leading independent first aid training providers in the UK with over 22,000 learners each year.


Providing a range of first aid courses to both places of work and individuals, our mission is to ensure that everyone has the necessary skills to save a life.


You can view our available courses here.


Call us on 0161 776 7420 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to speak to the team.


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