Bystanders can make a big difference in whether a cardiac arrest victim lives or dies. And the impact may be even greater when these Good Samaritans get real-time help from a 911 dispatcher, suggests a study in JAMA Cardiology published online In June 2016.
The study looked at the effects of a telephone cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) program in Phoenix, Arizona. It gave 911 dispatchers intensive training to help them recognize a possible cardiac arrest and give bystanders guidance on what to do. That included giving callers instructions on how to administer CPR.
The strategy appeared to work. After the program launched, 911 callers were able to start CPR more quickly, versus the year before. What’s more, victims’ survival odds rose. Overall, 12 percent survived in the two years after the program began, compared with 9 percent in the year before.
The outlook was better for people whose cardiac arrest was caused by a “shockable” arrhythmia—one that can be treated with a defibrillator. Of those patients, 35 percent survived after the 911 program launched, versus about 25 percent before.
The findings underscore the power of a quick, appropriate response to cardiac arrest. No matter where you live, calling 911 is the first step. In addition, the American Heart Association has many online resources for learning CPR.
Amy Norton has been a medical journalist since 1999. She was a staff writer and editor for Physician’s Weekly and Reuters Health, and has written on health and medicine for MSNBC, The Scientist, Prevention and HealthDay. When she’s not writing, she is teaching yoga.