Be wary of CPR lessons on YouTube

YouTube may be a great place to watch a dog play the accordion, but a new study suggests it's not the most reliable source for learning to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Researchers found that of the 52 videos teaching CPR they discovered on YouTube, half were uploaded by individuals with no apparent health credentials.

Of the rest, most were posted either by a private group (not a government agency or medical group with official CPR guidelines) or by people who claimed to be certified CPR instructors, doctors or paramedics.

Many videos are accurate

As for content, there were many videos that gave accurate information on how to perform CPR, lead researcher Dr Karthik Murugiah told.

But there were also many that painted an incorrect or incomplete picture, according to Dr Murugiah, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Close to two-thirds either incorrectly described the rate of CPR chest compressions or did not cover that detail at all. And 57% fell short on showing viewers how deep the chest compressions should be.

The ideal rate

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the ideal rate is at least 100 compressions per minute - coincidentally, about the same beat as the Bee Gees 1977 disco hit "Stayin' Alive."

Each compression should be about two inches (five centimeters) deep in adults and children, and about one and a half inches in infants. It's important to let the chest return to its starting position, so rescuers shouldn't lean on the chest between compressions.

Another gap in the videos was that only a handful of them dealt with "hands-only" CPR, where bystanders skip the traditional mouth-to-mouth breathing and perform chest compressions only.


That's important because the AHA and other medical groups now recommend that whenever an adult suddenly collapses and is unresponsive and not breathing, bystanders perform hands-only CPR - unless they are confident in their ability to do traditional CPR.

"I would say although there is very accurate information out there on YouTube, it is difficult for the lay person to wade through all the content and watch the right videos," Dr Murugiah said. "And there is a risk of dissemination of incorrect information."

The findings

He said the findings - which appeared online 27 December in Resuscitation - suggest that guideline-making groups like the AHA and Red Cross need to get more CPR information onto online platforms like YouTube.

Of course, the content on YouTube changes by the moment. And in the time since this study was submitted for publication, the AHA has added a couple of CPR-teaching videos to its YouTube channel (

One of the videos

The Red Cross also has a video demonstrating hands-only CPR on its channel (

Both groups' YouTube channels, Dr Murugiah said, "are certainly good, reliable sources of information on CPR." But even their CPR videos, he added, are somewhat short on detail and show "room for improvement."

Since sites like YouTube have such a huge reach, Dr Murugiah believes professional groups could make more use of them to boost public awareness of when and how to perform CPR. (Reuters Health/ January 2011)

You and CPR can save a life
CPR: more chest compressions best
CPR for the untrained bystander

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