Subjects: Public health
Nearly 300,000 people per year in the US collapse suddenly and die as a result of cardiac arrest, in which a heart attack or something else causes the heart to cease pumping blood effectively. The condition is fatal in minutes unless afflicted individuals receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The vexing public health problem with cardiac arrest is that many witnesses hesitate to administer CPR because they don’t want to get involved with the “mouth-to-mouth” part of the process. Some won’t do it because they are grossed-out by vomitus that may be in the patient’s mouth. Others worry that they might catch an infectious disease from the patient. Tens of thousands of lives are lost each year because of this hesitation.
That’s why the results of a new study by Bentley Bobrow and colleagues at the Arizona Department of Health Services were a cause for celebration after being released last week. The results of the study showed that cardiac arrest patients that received only chest compressions (not mouth-to-mouth) from witnesses had higher survival rates than patients who received CPR the old fashioned way (compressions plus mouth-to-mouth).
The study was published in the Journal of American Medical Association. It included 4,415 adults that sustained cardiac arrest between 2005 and 2009. In the study, survival rates (measured at hospital discharge) were 13.3% in the chest compressions only group, 7.8% in patients that received conventional CPR, and 5.2% for those who received no CPR.
“Anybody can do hands-only CPR by pushing hard and pushing fast in the center of a person’s chest,” Michael Sayre, an associate professor at Ohio State University and a CPR expert told the Wall Street Journal.
Responding quickly to the findings, the American Heart Association modified its CPR recommendations. The new recommendations call for adults to emphasize chest compressions rather than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The AHA recommendations can be seen here.
Note that when kids are found unresponsive, they do indeed need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation since the causes for the condition in kids is usually respiratory, not cardiac.