Education ongoing in keeping citizen CPR healthy
It used to be common practice that the best cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR involved rapid compressions on a patient’s chest combined with rescue breathing.
However, recent studies from the New England Journal of Medicine show that CPR administered with only chest compressions is at least as good as the conventional method, which includes rescue breathing or commonly called mouth-to-mouth breathing.
“For citizen CPR, it’s a big deal,” said Mike Page, Grand Junction Fire Department spokesman. “With communicable diseases, people don’t always want to do the mouth-to-mouth breathing.”
Survival rates for those who experience cardiac arrest outside of a hospital or medical setting are low, in large part because fewer than 1 in 3 people who experience cardiac arrest receive immediate CPR before medical attention arrives.
Within the first four minutes of CPR, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest patient is 43 percent, but if CPR is initiated between four and eight minutes the survival rate drops to 10 percent.
Two years ago, the American Heart Association announced that hands-only CPR works as well as the standard CPR on adults experiencing cardiac arrest.
It was hoped that the recommendation would prompt bystanders who witnessed a person experiencing cardiac arrest to administer deep chest compressions until paramedics arrive. Hands-only CPR may be easier for people to remember and eliminates the squeamish factor involved of breathing into a stranger’s mouth. Studies show that in administering CPR some people stopped the chest compressions when giving mouth-to-mouth.
However, experts now say, chest compressions are thought to be the most important aspect of CPR, particularly when a person suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest. Immediately after the heart stops, there is still some oxygen in the blood and using chest compressions to circulate this oxygen can be life-saving.
Chest compressions should be administered at 100 compressions per minute or to the same rhythm as the BeeGee’s catchy song “Stayin Alive.”
New studies won’t change the way paramedics resuscitate patients by using defibrillators and other life-support technologies, Page said. However, any CPR that people can do may be helpful to save lives and minimize brain damage.
“It is a goal here to get more people knowledgeable about CPR,” Page said. “I think a lot of people think, ‘if I have an emergency all I have to do is call 911.’ Even though it’s a great system, it really is the caller’s emergency until someone else arrives. Nine-one-one (dispatchers) can talk you through it.”
While chest compression-only CPR is acceptable for adults, full CPR is recommended for infants and children, according to the Western Colorado Chapter of the American Red Cross. Children typically experience sudden cardiac arrest because of respiratory problems and oxygen levels may already be low in the blood, so mouth-to-mouth breathing may aid in resuscitation.
Still, the agency maintained in a statement, “compression-only CPR is better than no action at all.”