Monday, September 19, 2011

NPM11: Early CPR Saves Lives


Note: This is day 19 of National Preparedness Month.  Follow this year’s campaign on Twitter by searching for the #NPM11 hash tag.


This month, as part of NPM11, I’ll be rerunning some edited and updated older preparedness essays, along with some new ones.



# 5851



As a paramedic I did nearly all of my rescue work in three cardiac prone cities (St. Petersburg Fl, Phoenix AZ, Bradenton Fl), so heart attacks and codes (cardiac arrests) were pretty much a part of every shift.


Even with the addition of ALS (Advance Life Support - defibrillators, cardiac meds, and telemetry) most of our attempts to resuscitate patients in full cardiac arrest failed.


It was simply a matter of timing.


Once the heart stops beating, the patient has maybe 4 to 6 minutes before irreparable damage occurs. Only rarely does an ambulance or rescue squad arrive within that window of opportunity.


There were some happy endings, of course.  Not as many as I’d have liked, but sometimes we got lucky. And a lot of those `saves’ could be credited to quick acting bystanders who began CPR before we arrived.


One of the big contributors to sudden cardiac death at home is a failure to call 911 when coronary symptoms first appear.  Often people will wait hours, hoping the chest pain will go away, before calling for help.



From the CDC’s Heart Attack Information page:

Symptoms of a Heart Attack

The five major symptoms of a heart attack are—

  • Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back.
  • Feeling weak, light-headed, or faint.
  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder.
  • Shortness of breath.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 9–1–1 immediately.



The most dire situation is a sudden cardiac arrest, where the patient’s heart and breathing have stopped. Resuscitation efforts need to be started immediately else the patient is unlikely to survive.


In 2010 the American Heart Association unveiled new CPR Guidelines which encourages lay bystanders to provide compression-only CPR.


Excerpts from the 2010 press release follow:


A New Order for CPR, Spelled C-A-B

Statement Highlights:

- The 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC update the 2005 guidelines.

- When administering CPR, immediate chest compressions should be done first.

- Untrained lay people are urged to administer Hands-Only CPR (chest compressions only).




The following video  explains the changes in the new 2010 Guidelines for CPR.



Using humor to drive the point home, the following AHA video carries an important message: 80% of all cardiac arrests occur at home.


Learning CPR means that person you are most likely to save will be a member of your own family.



Today, CPR is easier to do than ever.


Compression-only CPR is now the standard for laypeople, and so you don’t have to worry about doing mouth-to-mouth.


A CPR class, where you will get to learn more and practice these skills only takes a few hours, and it could end up helping you save the life of someone you love.


To find a local CPR course contact your local chapter of the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or (usually) your local fire department or EMS can steer you to a class.


For more on the recent changes to bystander CPR, you may wish to visit these recent blogs.


CPR As A Requirement For High School Graduation

AHA Unveils 2010 CPR Guidelines

JAMA: Compression Only CPR

MMWR: Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month

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