Save A Life: Learn CPR


This week is National CPR Awareness Week. As a cardiothoracic surgeon, the heart is dear to me, and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is designed to help keep the heart going if someone goes into sudden cardiac arrest, which is defined as the abrupt loss of heart function – either from a heart attack or an electrical dysfunction.

Every year over 360,000 people experience a sudden cardiac arrest outside of the hospital. 90% die; however, if CPR is done it can double or even triple chances of survival.

What’s amazing is that anyone can do CPR. You should learn how to do CPR to save a loved one.

CPR involves pressing hard on a downed victim’s chest in a way that would help promote blood flow after the heart stops breathing. Older versions of CPR includes a form of mouth-to-mouth breathing that would also help the victim get the oxygen he or she needs. However, the prospect of mouth-to-mouth contact may sadly discourage some of us from doing CPR altogether.

Now, the American Heart Association  is recommending hands-only CPR, which eliminates the need for mouth-to-mouth breathing. Studies have shown that it can be just as effective as CPR with ventilation.

The American Heart Association is celebrating this week by helping everyone learn about the importance of CPR. As they show in this video, it’s easy to learn and it can save someone’s life.

On their website, you can even practice giving CPR on a “model” of your choosing. The key is getting used to how fast your chest compressions should be, which is about 100 beats per minute, which is similar to the Bee Gees’ disco hit, “Stayin’ Alive!”

The AHA has a fun "hands on" app that teaches you to give hands-free CPR.

The AHA has a fun “hands on” app that teaches you to give hands-free CPR.

During an emergency, make sure you or someone nearby calls 911 before you start CPR.  You should also check the scene for safety (if you’re in traffic or in dangerous weather), because your safety is important too. Check to make sure the person has a pulse and if he or she is breathing. If not, then CPR should be started immediately, and once you start, don’t stop. Any interruptions, no matter how short, can increase the risk of death. Keep going until paramedics take over.

Hands-only CPR isn’t recommended for children or for those who aren’t unconscious for non-heart-related reasons (i.e. a near-drowning).

To learn more about CPR and to take a course in the life-saving technique, visit the Red Cross.