By Mandy Roth, Explorer intern
Every day, approximately 1,000 Americans drop dead from cardiac arrest.
"When you think of it, that's a 9/11-attack every three days," said Katie Maass, director of communications and public education for the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center. "It's a problem."
"That's the Tucson population in three years," agree UA medical student Karl Huebner said.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques have been used for decades, and thousands of lives have been saved. But statistics show that one in three bystanders will attempt CPR. Typically, a bystander is unsure of CPR skills, afraid of hurting the victim, or afraid of performing mouth-to-mouth, "partly because of the 'yuck' factor," Maass said.
Dr. Gordon Ewy, director of the Sarver Heart Center, has a solution: compression-only CPR, sometimes called hands-only CPR. Ewy has dedicated years of research to the effects of CPR on cardiac arrest victims, the most common cause of an adult sudden collapse.
"When someone has cardiac arrest, their lungs are still full of air and have 10 to 12 minutes of oxygen flowing through their blood," Maass said.
Ewy has found that taking the time to perform breaths in these cases, as per established mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, may not keep the victim's circulation moving, and may decrease their chances of survival. And, he said, bystanders are more likely to help if they don't have to perform mouth-to-mouth.
"If someone collapses from cardiac arrest," Maass said, "their chances of survival go down 10 percent every minute they don't receive help. Waiting five to seven minutes for an ambulance can cut down their chance of survival by 50 percent."
The Arizona community is jumping on board in making compression-only CPR the standard form of resuscitation for sudden collapses. Many fire departments are adopting a new protocol developed by Ewy called "cardio-cerebral resuscitation," involving sets of 200 compressions, then administering air passively through a mask or tube instead of forcing it through intubation.
The American Heart Association has issued a statement indication hands-only CPR is "a potentially lifesaving option to be used by people not trained in conventional CPR, or those who are unsure of their ability to give the combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing it requires." It does not recommend compression-only CPR on infants or children, nor on adults whose cardiac arrest is the result of respiratory causes such as drug overdose or near drowning.
UA's Sarver Heart Center and Ewy are moving along with promoting compression-only CPR. Sarver Heart Center has presented free workshops for compression-only CPR at University Medical Center.
Oro Valley residents Carl and Valerie Warren brought their sons, ages 6 and 9, to one seminar to "brush up on skills."
"We ignorantly thought this was traditional CPR," Valerie said. "We just installed a pool and wanted to refresh on safety for the kids."
Although drowning cases would require traditional CPR, the Warrens are happy they made the trip.
"They took us aside and showed us traditional as well as compression-only," Carl said. "It's good to know the difference between them, it was very informative."
Joyce and Stan Palasek, also from Oro Valley, found the workshop to be informative.
"I was surprised how easy it is," Stan said of compression-only CPR. They also learned the difference between cardiac arrest and heart attacks.
Whether the medical community is full-fledge compression-only CPR or not, there seems to be a consensus, said Maass. "When in doubt, do compressions."