CPR is often the only hope for a victim of sudden cardiac death. Implicit in its name is the fact that suffering a sudden cardiac death (SCD) event is life-threatening.
In such an event all normal heart activity stops leaving the body, and especially the brain, to starve.
When this happens one does not want to be alone. To survive it is necessary to receive immediate attention in the form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or some form of heart shock.
But administering CPR can be tricky business even for the well trained. One study found that paramedics administering CPR often vary in the number of breaths per minute they provide and that this variation makes a difference in the survival rates of patients who have suffered cardiac arrest.
The survival rate in the United States for cardiac arrest is an astoundingly low 5%. It has been suggested that this low survival rate is due in part to excessive ventilation during the CPR. In other words even many trained professionals are over ventilating the victims.
The American Heart Association recommends between 12 and 15 breaths per minute when treating cardiac arrest patients.
The observational study mentioned above included thirteen cardiac arrest victims. The average maximum ventilation rate for the first seven patients studied was 37 breaths per minute. That is about two and a half times the recommended rate. The paramedics involved in these cases were then retrained. The average ventilation rate for the next 6 victims of cardiac arrest dropped to 22 breaths per minute.
During CPR the chest is compressed forcing blood out of the heart into the rest of the body. As the chest is allowed to relax it recoils causing a vacuum. This vacuum pulls the blood through the veins back into the heart. Over-ventilating reduces this vacuum thereby decreasing the amount of blood that returns to the heart.
When there is less blood in the heart then there is, of course, less blood to be forced out into the rest of the body on the next compression. Oxygen may be plentiful but blood flow becomes insufficient. The effectiveness of CPR is therefore reduced possibly making survival and recovery from a major cardiac event less likely.
Return from CPR page to Sudden Cardiac Death page.
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