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Cardiac Arrests on the Rise in New Zealand by 11%

Every day, an average of seven New Zealanders are experiencing cardiac arrest outside of the hospital, with only 11 percent surviving the event.

In the year 2022/23, a total of 2,458 New Zealanders suffered from an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA), which is an 11 percent increase from the 2,212 cases in 2019/20. Despite bystanders performing CPR in 76 percent of cases, only 11 percent of victims survive beyond 30 days post discharge, down from 14 percent in 2018/19.

Although 23 percent of people were successfully revived by CPR, known as “return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) sustained to hospital handover,” the survival rate remains low. The rate of cardiac arrests in the community is now at 141.7 per 100,000 people, resulting in approximately seven such events occurring daily.

Comparative statistics with other selected ambulance services show that New Zealand ranks second in long-term survival, with King County EMS in Washington State leading with a 15 percent survival rate. Ambulance Victoria follows in third place with 10 percent, St. John Western Australia at nine percent, the Queensland Ambulance Service at eight percent, and Ireland’s National Ambulance Service at seven percent.

People Dying ‘Unnecessarily’: St. John Ambulance

The concerning figures have prompted St. John Ambulance to call for improved outcomes. Dr. Damian Tomic, Deputy Chief Executive of Clinical Services, expressed the need for better community response to prevent unnecessary deaths.

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The decrease in survival rates is attributed to reduced community CPR training during the pandemic and longer ambulance response times. Delay in administering CPR or using a defibrillator decreases the survival chances by 10 to 15 percent per minute. Urban ambulance response time averages eight minutes, while it extends to 12 minutes in rural areas.

Men are more prone to cardiac arrests than women, with 65 percent of incidents reported in males and 35 percent in females, with median ages of 67 and 70, respectively. While individuals of European descent experienced a higher number of cardiac arrests, Māori and Pacific Peoples had higher incidence rates, and Asians had lower rates compared to the total population.

Notably, the incidence of OHCA rises with increasing deprivation levels, with rural and remote areas experiencing higher rates (137 per 100,000 person-years) than urban areas (102 per 100,000 person-years).

The majority of cardiac arrests occur at home, followed by public areas such as workplaces, streets, shopping centers, and similar locations.

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