Cardiac Arrest Survival Less Likely on Higher Floors

Cardiac Arrest Survival Less Likely on Higher FloorsCardiac Arrest Survival Less Likely on Higher Floors

In a study of residential high-rise buildings, people who suffered cardiac arrest had a better chance of survival if they lived on lower floors, and survival odds decreased as floor number increased.

“We thought there might be something here because once somebody collapses into cardiac arrest, their chance of survival decreases really quickly,” said lead author Ian Drennan, a paramedic with York Region Paramedic Services and a researcher with Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto.

“If you find them in a shock heart rhythm then most of the time you can reset the heart and get a pulse back. If you wait too long, the chance of finding that rhythm deteriorates,” he said, Reuters reported.

A cardiac arrest is a condition when the heart actually stops beating. The body can only go for a short period of time without the heart pumping blood; therefore it is essential that CPR (chest compressions) and other medical assistance be given as quickly as possible.

With other time-sensitive conditions, like heart attack or stroke, minutes count, but with cardiac arrest a difference of just a few seconds can determine survival, Drennan told Reuters Health by phone.

Researchers studied 7,842 people who had cardiac arrest in private residences and were treated by first responders after an emergency call. Less than 4% survived to be discharged from the hospital.

Of the 5,998 people who lived below the third floor of their buildings, 4.2% survived, compared to 2.6% of those living above the third floor. Less than 1% of those living above the 16th floor survived, and none of the 30 patients who lived above the 25th floor survived, researchers reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Regardless of floor, an automated external defibrillator (AED) device, which can shock the heart back to pumping regularly in some cases, was rarely used.

The time it takes for a first responder arriving at the building to reach the patient having a cardiac arrest increases when the patient lives on a higher floor, researchers said.

On average, it took responders about six minutes from the time of the emergency call to arrive at the building. But it took them an average of three minutes between arriving at the building and first contact with the patient for those lived on the first or second floor, compared to an average of almost five minutes for those who lived on or above the third floor.

Although most high-rise residents shouldn’t be concerned about these findings, and don’t need to move based on them, people who are very sick may want to consider floor number when they move, Drennan added, “It’s the same thing as trying to move out to the country. You think if I get into trouble, is this the best spot for me?”