TUESDAY, March 27, 2012 (HealthDay News) --Training more people to perform CPR would significantly improve heart attack survival rates, according to a new study in Denmark, where CPR training is widespread.
Researchers analyzed 29,000 cardiac arrests that occurred over the course of a decade and found the proportion of cases involving bystander CPR more than doubled from 20 percent in 2001 to 44 percent in 2010.
They also found patients who received CPR or were treated with automated external defibrillators (AEDs) by bystanders before emergency responders arrived were roughly four times more likely to be alive 30 days later than those not helped by bystanders.
Cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating, can result from a heart attack or from accidents such as electrocution or drowning. AEDs are machines that can restore normal heart rhythm.
"This study is important because it emphasizes that an increase in bystander resuscitation has a direct impact on survival of patients," said the study's lead investigator, Dr. Mads Wissenberg of Gentofte University Hospital in Copenhagen, in a news release from the American College of Cardiology. "The study also demonstrates that increased availability of AEDs is likely to have an impact on survival."
Organizations in Denmark have promoted CPR training over the past 10 years, including requiring elementary school students and people applying for a driver's license to be trained in CPR. Also, AEDs were placed in more public and private settings across the country. Based on the success of those efforts, the researchers said more training initiatives in other countries, such as the United States, would likely produce similar results.
Despite the increase in bystander CPR, more than half of the patients analyzed in the study still did not receive CPR from people nearby, the authors found. AEDs, which are linked to increased 30-day survival, were also used in less than 2 percent of the cases examined.
"There is still room for improvements in order to increase the survival following out-of-hospital cardiac arrest even further," said Wissenberg.
The study's findings were slated for presentation Sunday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in Chicago.
Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on CPR.