Survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest "dismal"

The Institute of Medicine called for a national campaign to fight the No. 3 killer of Americans, sudden cardiac arrest. The survival rate outside a hospital is just six percent and even when a patient is treated by first responders, only 11 percent survive.

The last thing Steve Tannenbaum, 62, remembers from May 6, 2009 is walking onto a softball field.

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Steve Tannenbaum, 62, was a victim of sudden cardiac arrest, but his life was saved when two bystanders responded quickly.

CBS News

"I was found blue, without a pulse and no clinical signs of life at all," he said.

He had sudden cardiac arrest. Two bystanders started CPR and within three to five minutes, the police arrived with a defibrillator and shocked Tannenbaum's heart.

"I was just incredibly lucky to be at the right place at the right time," said Tannenbaum.

The Institute of Medicine report found that annually, less than three percent of the U.S. population receives CPR training and defibrillators are used by bystanders in just four percent of non-hospital cardiac arrests.

"The number one priority is to be giving them chest compressions so that you're circulating the blood for them," said Dr. Clifton Callaway, vice-chairman of emergency medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "There are videos that can teach you in less than two minutes the basic steps that you need to know that could help double a chance of somebody surviving a sudden cardiac arrest."

Intervention by bystanders is pretty rare, but why is that?

"People are afraid of hurting somebody," explained CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. "If somebody goes down with cardiac arrest and you're a bystander, you may very well be their best chance for survival.

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The Institute of Medicine reports that sudden cardiac arrest has only a six percent survival rate in all U.S. cases that occur outside the hospital.

CBS News

"And even in the chance, unfortunately that the person dies, that the resuscitation is not successful -- and I've been in that situation with families," LaPook said, "at least the families have the peace of mind of knowing that their loved one had a shot. They don't have to go the rest of their lives thinking 'what if.' "

For more instructional videos demonstrating CPR training from the American Heart Association, visit: www.heart.org.

Also, see other instructional life-saving videos here.

For more information on how to reduce the effects of cardiac arrest in youth, go to http://www.parentheartwatch.org/.

Fore more information about sudden cardiac arrest visit: www.sca-aware.org.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook