Who Needs CPR?

Cardiac arrest survival rates improved with chest compression only during initial treatment

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) The person next to you suddenly passes out. They are not breathing. There is no heartbeat. Would you know how to help them? 

Despite improvements in medical treatment, the cardiac arrest survival rate has not improved in many communities.

A recent study suggested using a new approach for treating cardiac arrest. The new approach is spelled out in guidelines for the public and medical community. After using the new method, communities saw survival rates improve.

Previous guidelines called for alternating chest compressions and rescue breathing into the victim's mouth. The new guideline suggests that the first person to treat the victim use chest compressions only.

"Learn the warning signs of cardiac arrest."

Gordon Ewy, MD, of University of Arizona College of Medicine, and colleagues led the study to help communities improve cardiac arrest survival rates. They were specifically interested in cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation, which is a severely abnormal heart rhythm. When the heart gets off beat, it needs to be shocked back into rhythm.  

Study authors developed new treatment guidelines based on recent research. The treatment guidelines are for both the public and emergency responders. The communities used the media to tell the public about the new guidelines. The public was taught the signs of cardiac arrest and to call 911. The public was also encouraged to only use chest compression on the victim and to not breath into the mouth.

The emergency responders and hospital staff were recommended to follow specific steps in their treatment. For example, when emergency responders arrived, they were told to continue chest compression with some defibrillator shocks. After several minutes of this treatment, the patient could receive breathing treatments.

The researchers stated that using the compression-only method improved survival rates among victims of cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation. Survival rates in Arizona increased from 17.7 to 33.7 percent over a 5-year period.

In a press release, Dr. Ewy said, "Once cardiac arrest occurs, chest compressions are the heartbeat. If these are stopped, blood flow to the brain and heart stops too. But for the first 10 minutes or so after cardiac arrest, the blood is still well oxygenated, so breathing help is not necessary and takes the focus away from the lifesaving chest compressions."

The study - titled "Alternative Approach to Improving Survival of Patients With Out-Of-Hospital Primary Cardiac Arrest" - was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Dr. Ewy disclosed that he is a co-principal investigator of the HeartRescue Grant from the Medtronic Foundation. Medtronic makes heart medications and devices.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 13, 2013
Last Updated:
January 19, 2013