Public Lacks Confidence to Help in Cardiac Emergencies

Survey finds less than 25% sure they could perform CPR, use automated defibrillator

MONDAY, June 2, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- While 89 percent of Americans say they're willing and able to help if they witness a medical emergency, only 21 percent are confident they could perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and only 15 percent believe they can use an automated external defibrillator.

The American Heart Association online survey of more than 1,100 adults was released as part of the first National CPR/AED Awareness Week, from June 1-7. The week is meant to encourage people to get CPR training and to learn how to use an AED to reduce death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

Only about 6 percent of out-of-hospital SCA victims survive, the AHA said. Without immediate, effective CPR, the odds of surviving out-of-hospital SCA decrease by 7 percent to 10 percent per minute. Even if a victim receives CPR, defibrillation with an AED is needed to restore normal heart rhythm.

"We think it's critical for people to get CPR training and learn how to use an AED. CPR and AED use are inextricably linked in the SCA survival chain, and it's crucial that bystanders take rapid action. If more people are trained and respond, we can save thousands more lives," Dr. Lance Becker, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and AHA spokesman, said in a prepared statement.

AEDs are available in many public places such as schools, workplaces and airports. The devices provide clear, calm voice cues to help guide users through the process of delivering a shock.

"There's no reason for people to be afraid to act. We want people to feel confident that whatever action they choose -- whether using an AED or performing conventional CPR or adult Hands-Only CPR -- they are doing something to help, which could be a lifesaving decision," Becker said.

Among the other findings from the survey:

  • More than half of the respondents didn't recognize an AED in a typical setting.
  • Lack of confidence, concern about legal consequences, and fear of hurting a victim are reasons why people wouldn't take action in a cardiac emergency.
  • Sixty-five percent of respondents said they'd received CPR training, but only 18 percent said they'd received AED training.
  • Two-thirds of those trained in using CPR and AEDs were required to do so for their jobs, school or the military.
  • The majority of respondents (88 percent) said they support requiring schools to have emergency plans, and 65 percent want public places to have AEDS on site.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about AEDs.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, May 28, 2008
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