Emergency CPR Coaching Saves Lives

CPR coaching by 911 dispatchers helps save cardiac arrest patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Bystanders are often willing to help those who suddenly go into cardiac arrest, but individuals without CPR training are often reluctant to assist. Encouraging 9-1-1 dispatchers to offer assistance could increase survival.

Assistance from 9-1-1 dispatchers in assessing patients and beginning CPR could double the rate of survival for cardiac arrest patients. Only about 11 percent of sudden cardiac arrest patients outside a hospital setting survive.

"Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone suffers cardiac arrest."

E. Brooke Lerner, Ph.D,  lead author of the statement and associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, called the new guidelines "a call to arms." She said 9-1-1 dispatchers don't give instructions on what to do as often as most assume.

New guidelines unrolled two years ago suggested that emergency dispatchers aid bystanders in assessing those who may be in cardiac arrest, and ask them to begin CPR immediately.

The American Heart Association is suggesting four recommendations for emergency medical services systems and 9-1-1 dispatchers including:

  • Dispatchers should assess whether a person may be in cardiac arrest, and instruct callers in how to immediately begin CPR.
  • If an adult patient is suffering from cardiac arrest that was not caused by asphyxia, such as from drowning, dispatchers should confidently give instructions for hands-only CPR, which involves chest compressions without giving breaths.
  • Communities should monitor dispatcher and EMS performance and assess the length of time before CPR is performed.
  • Those performance measurements should be part of a larger quality control program that assesses the entire emergency response system, including hospitals and EMS services.

About 380,000 Americans suffer cardiac arrest each year when the heart's electrical impulses become irregular and cause it to stop beating normally. Though the death rate is high when cardiac arrest occurs outside a hospital, following a "chain of survival" will reduce the risk of dying.

Those steps include quickly recognizing cardiac arrest and calling 9-1-1, early CPR, rapid defibrillation, advanced life support and care after cardiac arrest. When those steps are followed closely, the rate of survival doubles.

Even if patients did not suffer cardiac arrest, but still receive CPR, the chance that the aid will hurt them is very small. The hands-only method of CPR allows chest compressions to begin about a minute sooner on average. That method is only recommended for adult patients whose cardiac arrest was not caused by asphyxia.

In pediatric patients or when cardiac arrest was caused by asphyxia, conventional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breaths is recommended.

The statement was recently published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
January 9, 2012
Last Updated:
January 12, 2012