Central Louisiana has bragging rights for an important healthcare statistic related to National Heart Month, celebrated annually in February. Hands + Hearts, a local coalition of healthcare providers, has announced that the “meaningful survival” (defined as being discharged from the hospital neurologically intact or without significant mental and physical disability) rate of cardiac arrest victims in Rapides Parish has tripled during the past three years, establishing our community as a leader in the country in this health measurement. The dramatic increase in survival rates—from 8.2 percent to 26 percent—is attributed by area professionals to the instruction given to first responders, healthcare professionals and the general public on the benefits of “hands-only” CPR. CPR is a well-known acronym for cardiovascular resuscitation.
Recent studies have shown that more adults survived cardiac arrest when a bystander gave them continuous chest presses (hands-only CPR) to simulate a heartbeat, compared to traditional CPR with mouth-to-mouth breathing. The American Heart Association strongly endorses and promotes the use of “hands-only” CPR.
In addition to hands-only CPR, therapeutic hypothermia also has proven to be a best practice in the chain of survival for cardiac arrest patients. Cabrini Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the country to adopt therapeutic hypothermia, which is rapid cooling of patients after cardiac arrest to suspend and/or slow down damage frequently associated with cardiac arrest. Linking hands-only CPR with therapeutic hypothermia has strengthened the chain of survival for local residents.
Adopters of the simpler and more effective form of CPR include the cities of Alexandria and Pineville’s fire and police department, the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s department and many outlying volunteer fire departments. In addition, when managing a cardiac arrest 911 phone call, emergency medical dispatchers coach family members or bystanders on how to implement hands-only CPR until the emergency medical personnel arrive at the scene. “Anyone who can put one hand on top of the other, lock their elbows and push hard and fast can do this with no risk, no fear of causing harm,” said Dr. Robert Freedman, Jr., one of the founding members of Hearts + Hands. “We want to take away all the reasons bystanders do nothing when they witness a person collapse.”
Other founding members of Hearts + Hands are the American Red Cross of Central Louisiana, Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, Acadian Ambulance, Med Express Ambulance, Rapides Regional Hospital and the City of Alexandria.
With hands-only CPR, advocates say, potential rescuers don’t have to contemplate what for some could be the “yuck factor” of putting their mouth to an unconscious person’s mouth and breathing for them. For others, the trimmed-down method simplifies a confusing procedure learned years ago and barely remembered: How many breaths? How many chest compressions? Are you supposed to pinch the nose?
Professionals advise that standard CPR with mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions is still best for very small children and victims of near-drowning and drug overdose (instances where breathing problems probably led to the cardiac arrest).
Mary McMinn, Chapter Executive for American Red Cross of Central Louisiana stated that “studies have shown that being trained in hands-only CPR can make the lifesaving difference when someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest. In a national American Red Cross survey of 1,000 adults, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) say they would be more likely to perform CPR on someone if they did not need to have mouth-to-mouth contact such as through rescue breaths.”