Suppose you were walking between gates on the concourse of a large airport and you noticed an elderly man in front of
you clutch his chest and fall to the ground unconscious. Would you know what to do?
Now imagine that the event just described occurred in your own home. Are you prepared to respond to possibly save a
This year marks the 50th anniversary of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, known as CPR. In 1960, the American Heart
Association started a program to train health-care providers to combine mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with external
chest compressions to save lives. This CPR program became the forerunner of training for the general public.
Each year nearly 300,000 cardiac arrests are treated out of the hospital setting by emergency services providers. Many
of these resuscitations begin with CPR provided by a bystander.
CPR provides for the artificial circulation of oxygen-rich blood, supplying essential support to the body's organs
until definitive treatment to restart the heart pump becomes available. Without adequate circulation, brain death
occurs within 4 to 6 minutes after the heart stops beating. Without bystander CPR, statistics indicate that the chance
of survival from defibrillation decreases by 7 to 10 percent per minute.
Ninety-five percent of sudden cardiac death victims die before reaching the hospital. Evidence has shown that effective
bystander CPR can double, or even triple, the chances of a victim's survival.
Nearly 80 percent of sudden cardiac death episodes occur in the home. How many of us are prepared with the knowledge to
possibly save the life of a loved one?
There is more to CPR than just blowing air into a victim's mouth or compressing his chest. The ability to perform
effective CPR requires education in the proper techniques. These techniques are not terribly complicated, and the
average school-aged child or adult can learn them without difficulty. Recent revisions to the CPR guidelines for the
general public have resulted in further simplification of the procedure for resuscitation. In many instances, chest
compressions alone can be effective in maintaining circulation until definitive treatment becomes available.
Definitive treatment for cardiac arrest consists of defibrillation, in which an electrical shock is provided to the
heart. While EMS is equipped to provide this intervention, the advent of automated external defibrillators, or AEDs,has expanded this technique for use by members of the general public. Now, many communities (including Durango) have
programs whereby automated defibrillators are available in public places to aid in the event of a cardiac arrest.
If you are interested in basic training in the lifesaving techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (including how to
use an automated defibrillator), consider enrolling in one of many emergency cardiac care training courses provided by
the American Heart Association. To find available classes, log on to americanheart.org and enter your ZIP code in the
emergency cardiac care class connector."
The life you save may be someone you love.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a
board-certified physician in
internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.