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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Misconceptions about CPR

I'm all set: I took a CPR course three or four years ago.

  • It's not your memory that will let you down - it's the fact that CPR has changed a lot in the past few years, and it's probably going to change on October 18th this year.
  • Bystander CPR courses are available from the American Red Cross, from the American Heart Association in kit form, and in some locations from (If you want to get a operation going in your town, we can show you how. Just contact .)
I'm not going to do mouth-to-mouth on some stranger!

  • First of all, the vast majority of witnessed arrest victims are family members, friends, or associates.
  • Second, if you see an adult arrest, you're not supposed to do mouth-to-mouth. The victim's chances are about 25% better if you skip the mouth-to-mouth and just pump that chest.

I'm not going to do CPR on a stranger - I'll get sued!

  • First of all, the vast majority of witnessed arrest victims are family members, friends, or associates. (Yes, it bears repeating.)
  • Second, all fifty states (plus Washington DC) have 'Good Samaritan' laws. They vary a bit in some states, but the essence is that, if you see someone arrest and if you take action without compensation and with goodness in your heart, you cannot be taken to court.

A cardiac arrest is a matter of life-or-death.

  • Many people wish it were. It's really a matter of life or death or something worse. If all you do is call 911, the victim has a 1 in 20 chance of surviving with major brain functions intact.
  • What about the other 19? Some of them - the lucky ones - die.
  • The rest spend the rest of their lives with neurological deficits that interfere with some or all of the activities of normal daily life - activities such as walking, talking, speaking, hearing, seeing, bladder and bowel control.
  • Starting chest compressions immediately after calling 911 will increase the number who survive and will decrease the number that don't survive but also don't die.

I can't do CPR on someone - I might break a rib.

  • Think about it - what's better for the victim? Alive with broken ribs? ...or dead with ribs intact.
  • It does happen, and the odds of it happening increase with the age of the victim. You can minimize the chance of ribs breaking by proper hand placement.
  • If it does happen, just keep on pushing.