Prepare to save a life: CPR couldn't be easier!

Several years ago, my wife and I took a CPR course and got certified. Just days earlier, I had read a news story claiming chest compressions alone are just about as effective as full-blown CPR that cycles back-and-forth between chest compressions and blowing air into the victim’s mouth and nose.

Now, The New England Journal of Medicine has published two new studies providing even more support for the claim that chest compressions alone are sufficient:

Medical experts have been concerned for years about the low use of CPR outside hospitals and how to get more bystanders to perform it. One barrier has been the perceived complexity of the procedure, particularly rescue breathing, which involves positioning patients correctly so their airways remain open. The hope is that a more simplified CPR procedure will increase bystanders' willingness to perform it.

“If you do anything, if you attempt CPR, you can only make things better,” said Thomas Rea, first author of one of new studies and medical director for King County Medic One, which provides emergency services for the county in Washington state that includes Seattle. “You cannot make it worse.”

Some 300,000 people in the U.S. are treated for cardiac arrest outside the hospital each year, but less than one-third get CPR from bystanders who witness their collapse, according to the American Heart Association. Outside the hospital, only 8% of all victims survive cardiac arrest, but when CPR is administered in the minutes after the episode begins, the patient’s survival rate can double or triple.

Researchers examined in randomized trials the effectiveness of bystander-performed CPR on the victims' survival. Bystanders were instructed by phone by emergency personnel to give either chest-compression only or compression plus rescue breathing.

Together, the studies examined more than 3,000 patients and found no statistical difference in survival between the two groups. One study, conducted by researchers in Seattle and London, showed that 12.5% of the chest-compression-alone group survived to leave the hospitals to which they were admitted, and 11% survived when rescue breathing was added to the chest compressions.

The other study, conducted in Sweden, showed an 8.7% 30-day survival rate in the compression-only group and a 7% survival rate with standard CPR.

Posted by James on Wednesday, July 28, 2010