According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, people living in high-rise buildings are likelier to survive heart attacks if they live on the first few floors. Live beyond the 16th floor and survival even becomes negligible.

Ian Drennan, a paramedic affiliated with York Region Paramedic Services and one of the authors of the study, explained that as more and more high-rise buildings are built and occupied, the effect of delays on patient care in such structures must be determined. He and his colleagues analyzed 8,216 cases of cardiac arrests and found that the higher up a patient lives, the lower their survival rate is.

Out of the 8,216 people part of the study, 3.8 percent survived and were discharged from the hospital. Out of the 5,998 patients living below the third floor, 4.2 percent lived through their arrest while just 2.6 percent of the 1,844 living in the upper floors survived.

When the researchers analyzed data according to floor, they found that those living above the 16th floor only had 0.9 percent of survival while no survivors were recorded for those living beyond the 25th floor.

According to the researchers, 911 response time, from the moment concerned parties are notified of the emergency to the time first responders arrive on the scene, will generally remain constant if traffic patterns remain the same. This shifts the importance of 911 response times to patient contact times in determining survival rates for out-of-hospital heart attacks.

To improve patient contact time, the researchers suggest that first responders be given sole access to emergency elevators to avoid public interference, much like in the case of a fire; that building staff be alerted to the emergency before first responders arrive; and that defibrillators be located in more convenient spots to facilitate bystander use.

According to Marcus Eng Hock Ong, one of the authors of the study, there is much to be learned from Singapore when it comes to addressing out-of-hospital cardiac arrests involving residents in high-rise buildings.

"A large public campaign is currently underway to enroll residents' committees as first responders and to train one million people over the next five years," he said.

Photo: Danny Fowler | Flickr

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