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Gasping Is Common Feature During Cardiac Arrest

Bystanders and medical personnel urged to not misinterpret gasping as a sign of recovery

TUESDAY, Nov. 25 (HealthDay News) -- In cases of cardiac arrest, gasping or abnormal breathing is common, decreases over time, and is associated with increased survival. Because it is not a sign of recovery, bystanders and emergency medical dispatchers should not hesitate from initiating prompt resuscitation efforts when appropriate, according to a study published online Nov. 24 in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Bentley J. Bobrow, M.D., of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center in Tucson, and colleagues conducted two retrospective analyses of 113 confirmed out-of-hospital cardiac arrests from the Phoenix Fire Department Regional Dispatch Center, and 1,218 patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrests documented by emergency medical system (EMS) first-care reports.

In the first cohort, the researchers found that gasping was present in 39 percent of patients. In the second cohort, they found that the presence or absence of gasping was associated with EMS arrival time. Gasping was present in 20 percent of patients when EMS arrival time was less than seven minutes but only in 7 percent of patients when arrival time was more than nine minutes, they report. Survival to hospital discharge was significantly greater in patients who gasped than those who did not (28 percent versus 8 percent), the report indicates. In patients who received bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation, survival to hospital discharge was significantly greater in those who gasped (39 percent versus 9 percent).

"Gasping is not a sign of recovery but a sign that resuscitation efforts are effective and should be continued because the chance of survival in such patients is greater," the authors conclude. "When gasping is present, assisted ventilation during resuscitation efforts might not be necessary. Recognition of gasping and its significance in patients with primary cardiac arrest is important to successful resuscitation efforts."

Several authors disclose financial relationships with medical companies, one of which included Medtronic.

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