Recently, a 39-year-old Australian man was brought back to life 40 minutes after being declared clinically dead. Colin Fiedler is just one of three cardiac arrest patients who have been revived with the aid of a new cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) machine called the “AutoPulse” after more than a half hour of being dead.
Doctors at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne are experimenting with the procedure, which uses a non-invasive cardiac support pump to move blood throughout the body. The AutoPulse squeezes the entire chest instead of just one spot, as with manual compression CPR, and minimizes no-flow time.
The AutoPulse represents just one of several recent developments in the life-saving science of CPR. The American Heart Association updates its CPR recommendations every five years and has published several new guidelines that can help make the technique even more effective. Here’s a look at some of what’s changed and how you can make a difference:
Who Can Perform CPR?
One of the most common CPR misconceptions is that you have to a trained medical professional in order to perform the technique. The fact is, any attempt to provide CPR, whether the person administering the procedure has been trained or not, is better than no attempt to provide help. The key is to act quickly—every minute you wait lowers the victim’s chance of survival by about 10 percent.
That being said, CPR training does help. People who are trained in the technique are more likely to give high quality compressions and to be more confident in their skills. Even a short online CPR course can provide you the knowledge you need to do CPR.
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Hands-only CPR, or chest-compression-only, is a procedure that’s designed to be easier to perform than traditional CPR with rescue breaths. It was designed as a way to encourage bystanders, who may not know how or feel comfortable doing rescue breathing, to perform some form of CPR.
Hands-only CPR only has two steps:
- Call 9-1-1 (or have someone else do it).
- Push hard and fast in the center of the chest. Aim for about 100 beats per minute—an easy way to remember is to perform compressions to the tune of the BeeGees’ hit, “Staying Alive.”
Two major studies have now shown that the compression-only technique works just as well as traditional CPR. The Red Cross states that hands-only is an acceptable alternative for those who may be unable to perform full CPR with rescue breaths. Hands-only CPR can be performed on teenagers and adults—it’s not recommended for children or infants.
Something else that’s improving patients’ odds is the continuing spread of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). They can now be found in schools, airports, shopping malls, movie theatres, and more. This technology, which works by administering a shock to the patient’s heart, comes with step-by-step instructions that make it almost error-proof. Once the pads are in place, one on the victim’s upper right chest and one on the lower left side—the machine comes with a picture showing where to place them—the AED automatically scans the patient and determines if a shock is necessary.
When combined with CPR, AEDs can help improve someone’s chances of survival. If the patient has no pulse, CPR should be performed both before and after administering a shock or until the paramedics arrive. After using the AED, continue performing CPR for two minutes before using the AED to scan the patient again.
Again, the key is that doing something is better than doing nothing. It’s estimated that as many as two-thirds of cardiac arrest patients can survive if help is provided immediately.
You can do more by keeping your certification current. This will allow you to get familiar with the latest guidelines and best practices and can help keep your skills sharp.
Are you CPR certified? Share your thoughts about these new techniques below.