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Cardiac arrest is a serious medical emergency and can happened to suddenly to anyone, anytime and anywhere.


The Heart Foundation estimates 15,000 Australians each year, unexpectedly die from cardiac arrest. This is around 10% of all Australian deaths, every year.


In Australia, there are many misconceptions about what cardiac arrest is and how to treat it. In this article, we dispel some of those myths that may be barriers to giving first aid assistance.


Myth 1. Sudden cardiac arrest is rare.


Fact. Cardiac arrests are quite common, accounting for 10% of all Australian deaths that occur every year (153,000). Cardiac arrest death rates have not declined in Australia at the same rate as other heart-related deaths.1


Myth 2. Cardiac arrest is the same as a heart attack.


Fact. A cardiac arrest is not a heart attack. However, a heart attack can, but does not always, lead to cardiac arrest.


A heart attack is generally an underlying problem with the vessels of the heart. Cardiac arrest is the unexpected collapse of a person, whose heart has ceased to function due to an electrical malfunction of the heart, disrupting the heart muscle’s normal rhythm.


Myth 3. Cardiac arrest only happens to the elderly.


Fact. Cardiac arrest can happen, suddenly, to anyone—young or old, male or female—anywhere and at any time. Many patients have no warning signs or symptoms. A third of sudden cardiac deaths occur without any warning at all.2


Myth 4. Cardiac arrest only happens to people with a history of heart problems. 


Fact. Cardiac arrest can often be the first indication of a heart problem, but cardiac arrest can happen to anyone. About a third of sudden cardiac deaths occur without any warning at all.3


Myth 5. Victims are better off waiting for professional help to arrive.


Fact. It is proven that immediate assistance by a bystander can make all the difference in reviving a cardiac arrest casualty.

If you think someone is having a sudden cardiac arrest, immediately call Triple Zero (000) and commence CPR. If an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is available, use it, as this will give the best chance of the person’s survival.


In Australia, 95% of victim will die before reaching the hospital. Immediate intervention by a bystander can mean the difference between life and death.4






An AED delivers a set amount of electrical shock to the heart after it analyses that the heart’s rhythm is not normal. The AED determines whether a shock is required to the heart via the adhesive electrode pads attached to the patient’s chest. The electric shock will restore the heart’s normal electrical rhythm.


Myth 6. Only trained people are allowed to use AEDs.


Fact. AEDs are designed to be used by anyone, even those who have not received any training.


All you have to do, is open the case, push the ON button, and the AED will instantly give you voice step-by-step instructions to follow. The AED does not skip ahead—it will keep repeating the instruction until each step has been completed. This makes using an AED very safe and a reassuring guide in what can be a stressful situation.


Myth 7.  AEDs can hurt people by shocking them inappropriately. 


Fact. AEDs are very safe to use. The AED will not allow a shock to be given when none is needed.


The AED assesses the status of the casualty’s heart rhythm. If the rhythm is normal, the AED will not shock the casualty. If the heart’s rhythm is not normal, the AED will advise you (by a voice command) to press the Shock button.



To learn more about AEDs, see our article on Your Top 10 Questions About AEDs Answered.


St John Ambulance Queensland is passionate about empowering individuals and believes first aid capability is an essential skill that everyone should have. To learn more about SCA and how to use an AED, book into a St John First Aid Course today.


Book your course today.



1., accessed 23 May 2017.

2., accessed 23 May 2017.

3., accessed 23 May 2017.

4., accessed 23 May 2017.


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