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Heart Experts Make Boosting Bystander CPR a Priority

TUESDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- People who suffer sudden cardiac arrest are more likely to survive if 911 and EMS dispatchers help bystanders assess victims and begin CPR immediately, says a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association.

One of its main goals is to increase how often bystanders perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

"I think it's a call to arms," statement lead author E. Brooke Lerner, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, said in an AHA news release. "It isn't as common as you think, that you call 911 and they tell you what to do."

The statement includes four recommendations:

  • Dispatchers should assess whether someone has had a cardiac arrest and if so, tell callers how to administer CPR immediately.
  • Dispatchers should confidently give hands-only CPR instructions for adults who have had a cardiac arrest not caused by asphyxia (as in drowning).
  • Communities should measure performance of dispatchers and local EMS agencies, including how long it takes until CPR is begun.
  • Performance measurements should be part of a quality assurance program involving the entire emergency response system including EMS and hospitals.

The statement, released Jan. 9, was published simultaneously in the journal Circulation.

Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when a problem arises with electrical impulses in the heart, causing it to stop beating normally. The survival rate for people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital is only 11 percent.

Each year in the United States, more than 380,000 people are assessed by EMS for sudden cardiac arrest.

Rapid assessment and early CPR are among the links in the "Chain of Survival" that can improve a person's chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest. Other links include rapid defibrillation, effective advanced life support and integrated post-cardiac arrest care.

People who don't have CPR training are often afraid to help. But even if a person is suffering from something other than cardiac arrest, "the chances that you're going to hurt somebody are very, very small," Lerner said. "And if you do nothing, they're not getting the help that's going to save their life."

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about sudden cardiac arrest.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Jan. 9, 2012

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