Stayin’ alive: the facts on CPR

Toronto EMS is marking Heart Month in February with the launch of a CPR awareness campaign.
Toronto EMS is marking Heart Month in February with the launch of a CPR awareness campaign. File/Global News

TORONTO – The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians wants every Canadian to be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to help prevent deaths from cardiac arrest.

On Thursday, the group said it wants to see high school students trained in the life-saving technique. Only about one quarter of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest receive CPR from a bystander. Doubling that rate could help save about 2,000 lives each year.


About CPR

CPR is an emergency procedure involving rapid chest compressions and artificial respiration. The technique is meant to temporary encourage blood flow to the heart, keeping the cardiac victim alive until an ambulance arrives.

Last year, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada updated its guidelines for CPR. The simplified life-saving procedure places greater emphasis on chest compressions rather than artificial breathing.

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The A-B-C approach – open airway, give a breath, begin compressions – was revised to “C-A-B” approach, or hard and fast compressions first, followed by open airway and breathing. It’s widely believed that the proper tempo for delivering compressions should match the tune of the Bee Gee’s hit pop song ‘Stayin’ Alive.’

The revised guidelines aim to encourage untrained bystanders to act quickly during the crucial first few minutes of cardiac arrest.

History of CPR

In 1954, Physician-researcher Dr. Peter Safar, along with American respiratory researcher Dr. James Elam, presented experiments proving cardiopulmonary resuscitation as a sound technique for treating cardiac arrest.

Safar and Elam’s findings improved on the previously accepted “chest-pressure and arm-lift” technique previously used for resuscitation.

Three years later, Safar penned the book “the ABC’s of Resuscitation”, emphasizing the importance of open airways, breathing and circulation.

In later years, Safar would come to be known as the father of modern day CPR and emergency medicine.

On September 16, 1960, Dr. Safar and colleagues presented additional findings to the Maryland Medical Society linking chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth ventilation.

The revised technique remains the preferred method of CPR still practiced today. In 2008, research published in the journal Circulation prompted the Canadian Red Cross to recognize a “compression-only” approach to CPR as an acceptable alternative for untrained members of the public who witness an adult suddenly collapse.

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Fast facts

Up to 45,000 cardiac arrests occur each year in Canada. That’s one cardiac arrest every 12 minutes.

An estimated 70,000 heart attacks occur in Canada each year. That’s one heart attack every 7 minutes.

It takes 6-12 minutes to restart the heart.

For every 1 minute delay in defibrillation, the survival rate of a cardiac arrest victim decreases by 7% to 10%.

There’s even a CPR app: Download the how-to ‘Hands Only’ guide to your iPhone.