As the world's ever-more urban population increasingly lives more than three stories above ground, there may be repercussions for anyone suffering a heart attack at the wrong end of a long elevator ride from the ground floor. Medics and other researchers have analyzed 8,216 cardiac arrests in private residences that involved treatment by 911-initiated first responders, and they report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal that people are twice as likely to survive a heart attack if they live below the third floor than above it. In fact, only two out of 216 people above the 16th floor survived, and zero out of 30 above the 25th floor did. "The time from arrival on scene to initial patient contact may increase as more of the population comes to live at or above the third floor," the authors write.
In other words, ambulances are arriving just as quickly, but elevators are slowing first responders down. More than 400,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in North America every year, with survival to hospital discharge often well below 10%, reports Medical News Today, which adds that for every minute a patient is delayed access to an automated external defibrillator (AED), there's a 7% to 10% drop in one's chance of surviving. As grim as the findings are, researchers note a few potential solutions, including making AEDs more widely available; providing first responders exclusive access to elevators in emergencies; and training residents of high-rise buildings in CPR and using AEDs, the researchers note in a press release. (In one Swiss town, even prostitutes are trained to use AEDs.)