Cardiac arrest footballer Eriksen exposes major problem in Spain

by Deborah Cater
cardiac arrest survival rate poor in Spain

After the cardiac arrest of footballer Christian Eriksen, more attention is being paid to health issue. 30,000 Spaniards die every year following a heart attack. According to experts, this high death rate is not necessary, but Spain is facing significant problems in this area.

Christian Eriksen’s cardiac arrest during Denmark’s first European Championship match brought renewed attention worldwide to first aid for cardiac arrest. CPR courses were even given via Instagram. The Spanish news site RTVE.es investigated this cause of death in Spain and how the chance of survival can be increased.

Over half of Spaniards die following cardiac arrest

In Spain, about 52,000 people per year suffer a cardiac arrest of which about 30,000 people die each year. These figures show  this is one of the leading causes of death in Spain. As was the case with Erikson, defibrillators and the immediate application of a chest compressions prove to be decisive for survival rates.

In Spain, the place where someone has a cardiac arrest determines their survival. In hospital there are sufficient resources and specialists who can help. People who experience this outside the hospital have only a 5% – 10% chance of surviving. The first minutes after a cardiac arrest are crucial.

Spain has two big problems

However, according to experts, Spain has a problem in two areas. Firstly, there is a significant shortage of defibrillators in public areas. Secondly, there are not enough people in Spain with knowledge of administering chest compressions. According to the Spanish Society of Cardiology, Spain is lagging behind other European countries in this area. The solution therefore lies in both areas: more defibrillators must be made available and more people must take a first aid or CPR course.

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The association reports that 70% people who suffer a cardiac arrest in Spain do so in close proximity to friends or family. Since every minute counts, it is extremely important more people know how to provide first aid.

Why are there not enough defibrillators in Spain?

These types of devices are not extremely expensive and in apartment blocks the costs can be shared. According to property managers, the problem is national legislation in this area is lacking. Each autonomous region has its own rules regarding the presence and use of these devices.

Some regional authorities are afraid of legal claims if recovery from cardiac arrest is not sufficient or fails after the use of a defibrillator. An accessible regulation for the whole of Spain in this area could certainly help, according to the Association of Cardiology.

Attention to first aid in Spanish schools

Another way to draw more attention to this topic is to discuss it at school once a year. The World Health Organisation advises through the ‘Kids save lives’ programme that children between the ages of 10 and 12 should receive about 2 hours of training every year to make a difference.

The Spanish Society of Cardiology, at the request of principals, comes to school to give a first aid workshop to children. A spokesperson for the association, however, says it should not only be at the request of the school. They feel it should be a national obligation for school lessons in this area.

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