Bystander CPR Saves Lives

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Walter Lockwood /

If you saw someone experiencing a heart attack, would you step in to perform CPR?

If you did, you might be saving a life. According to the latest study published in the journal JAMA, even if you aren’t a professional emergency medical technician, administering CPR to someone in distress can increase their likelihood to survive cardiac arrest.

Administering CPR can be intimidating, and bystanders are often reluctant to do so if they feel untrained. But the stats show that bystanders are very often critical in saving a victim’s life. Otherwise, too much time can pass between an individual going into cardiac arrest and when emergency services get to them. That’s why bystanders are encouraged to administer CPR when someone is in need. While mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can make people nervous, research has shown that chest pumps alone can do the trick. In fact, such methods are very effective during emergencies to preserve brain function and breathing.

Denmark, like the U.S., has been encouraging bystanders to administer CPR if they spot a person under cardiac arrest. Now, a new study from researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, Hellerup, Denmark shows the push is paying off. After rates of bystander CPR substantially increased over a period of ten years, survival rates at 30 days and one year tripled and the number of survivors per 100,000 people tripled.

(MORE: CPR: Chest Compressions Alone Can Preserve Brain Function)

The researchers studied 19,468 patients who had hospital visits after a cardiac arrest and had someone attempt CPR. The study looked at the rates of patients receiving CPR between 2001 and 2010, finding that the increasing rates rose in tandem with Denmark’s push to get more citizens comfortable with giving CPR. From 2001 to 2010, the rates rose from 21.1% to 44.9% and there was also a bump in the number of citizens who completed both mandatory and voluntary CPR courses. What was especially exciting was that there was also a 7.9% to 21.8% increase in the number of cardiac arrest patients who underwent CPR and arrived at the hospital alive.

Experts say that even untrained people can help those in cardiac distress with an simpler version of CPR that uses just chest pumps. In 2010, the American Heart Association said giving chest compressions alone, without the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, is effective in saving lives.