You could be a lifesaver – simple CPR doubles the odds of a cardiac arrest patient surviving

If a few minutes of your time could save a person's life, would you do it?

In a new study, researchers found that any type of bystander CPR – including just performing chest compressions – significantly improves the chances of survival for people who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.

A cardiac arrest is when your heart suddenly stops beating.

"Bystanders have an important role in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Their actions can be lifesaving," said study first author Dr Gabriel Riva. He's a Ph.D. student at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Standard CPR involves chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing. But hands-only CPR is becoming more widespread, so researchers wanted to compare 30-day survival rates for the two methods.

The researchers analyzed data on more than 30 000 people in Sweden who suffered out-of-hospital cardiac arrest during three time periods: 2000-2005, 2006-2010 and 2011-2017. Over those three periods, 39% received standard CPR and 20% received hands-only CPR.

During the study period, hands-only CPR was gradually adopted into Sweden's CPR guidelines.

Bystander CPR rates rose from 41% in 2000-2005 to just over 68% in 2011-2017.

Standard CPR rates were about 35% in the first period, and 38% in the third period, the findings showed.

Hands-only CPR rates rose from about 5% in the first time period to 14% in the second, and then to 30% in the third period - an overall sixfold increase, the study authors noted.

During the 18-year study, patients receiving standard and hands-only CPR were twice as likely to survive 30 days as patients who received no CPR, according to the report published online April 1 in the journal Circulation.

"We found a significantly higher CPR rate for each year, which was associated with higher rates of compression-only CPR," Riva said in a journal news release.

"CPR in its simplest form is just chest compressions. Doing only chest compressions doubles the chance of survival, compared to doing nothing," Riva explained.

Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death, the American Heart Association (AHA) says. It is often fatal if no immediate action is taken. Each year, there are more than 325 000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in the United States.

If you witness a cardiac arrest, the AHA recommends that you call emergency services and begin to push hard and fast in the center of the person's chest until help arrives. Push at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute, which corresponds to the beat of the song Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees.

Image credit: iStock

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