Bringing CPR to the masses

If your loved one experienced a sudden cardiac arrest, would you know how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation?


Most people do not, but starting CPR, or cardiopulmonary resusitacion, immediately after the arrest might determine whether the victim lived or died.


On Oct. 12, the American Heart Association rolled out a new concept in CPR training: the CPR Anytime for Family and Friends Personal Learning Program.


In the past, CPR training has been limited to classroom settings, with lessons and materials provided by a trained instructor at a set place and time. These conditions weren’t always convenient for everyone, and many people shunned the classroom gestalt of the traditional CPR class.


“This product changes all of that,” said Diana Cave, registered nurse and member of the Basic Life Support national faculty. “CPR training is now available to everyone.”


The $30 CPR Anytime kit comes with an instruction book, 22-minute DVD and inflatable mini-CPR manikin. Learners literally train themselves in the privacy of their own home, school, office or community center. A single kit can be used by multiple trainees and can also be used to refresh skills.


“We’ve tried to make it easy to learn CPR,” said Francesca Fabile, senior director for communications and marketing for the American Heart Association. “The more people that learn CPR, the more lives we can save.”


CPR is bystander emergency care for people with sudden cardiac arrest. After an arrest, which is most often caused by a heart attack, the heart either fibrillates (a quivering action that is ineffective for pumping blood) or stops altogether. Breathing also stops.


If the heart and lungs aren’t working, oxygen-rich blood cannot be pumped through the body. Without oxygen, death is a certainty.


Currently, 75-80 percent of sudden cardiac arrests occur in the home. Death and brain injury may occur within 3-4 minutes after the arrest, and the chance of survival decreases about 10 percent with each passing minute.


CPR works in two ways. First, rescuer-performed artificial respiration forces air into the lungs, providing the body with a source of oxygen.


Second, chest compressions literally squeeze the heart between the spine and sternum (breastbone), causing circulation to be partially restored and sending oxygenated blood throughout the body.


The combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions can keep oxygenated blood flowing until paramedics arrive, making it more likely that electrical defibrillation and other types of advanced emergency care will work.


Currently, only about 5 percent of those experiencing cardiac arrest survive. The faster that CPR is started, the better the victim’s chances. 


In the Portland metropolitan, area, the average 9-1-1 response time varies from 4 to 8.5 minutes. If CPR is started immediately, it can bridge the gap between the onset of arrest and the arrival of emergency medical personnel.


“CPR can literally make the difference between life and death,” Cave said.

Some were afraid that the home learning would not be as effective a teaching tool as the traditional CPR class, but studies show that learning at home can be just as effective.


“They found that the home group learned CPR as effectively as those taking the full-fledged course,” Cave said.


Each mini-manikin has a built in “clicker.” The manikin can be inflated to different pressures, requiring deeper or shallower chest compressions to create a “click.” This allows the torso manikin to simulate effective CPR on both adult and child victims.


Research also shows that the home CPR training is retained well. Learners assessed three to six months after finishing the home study course showed excellent retention of the knowledge.

The American Heart Association currently trains 9 million people annually in CPR via traditional classes.


In one study, the association found that for every CPR Anytime kit sold to an individual, at least 2.5 additional people also used the kit to become CPR-trained. Based on this, they hope that CPR Anytime will increase the number of CPR-trained people in the U.S. to at least 20 million.


“We hope that many of the people who needed or wanted to learn CPR but had difficulty making it to a formal course will take advantage of this product,” Cave said.


The new kit does not grant official certification. For that, people must continue to rely on traditional CPR course. Plans are also in process for an infant-based home CPR course, with a mini-infant manikin.