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WEDNESDAY, May 4, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- A stranger or someone you love suddenly collapses with cardiac arrest, but you don't know CPR.
New research shows that help -- and CPR instruction -- may be just a cellphone call away.
This is "a real-world approach that the majority of communities can adopt to help improve survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest," said one expert, emergency room physician Dr. Robert Glatter.
The new study was led by Dr. Bentley Bobrow of the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix. His team noted that fewer than half of Americans who suffer cardiac arrest in public places receive CPR -- cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- from bystanders, and survival rates are very low.
When cardiac arrest strikes, "time is cardiac muscle," said Glatter, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "The sooner we can initiate effective chest compressions and defibrillation ... the better chance we have of improving neurologically intact survival in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest," he explained.
To address the problem, both the American Heart Association and the Institute of Medicine have emphasized the need for 911 operators and emergency response dispatchers to spot cases of cardiac arrest -- and help instruct bystanders in providing CPR.
Instruction would involve over-the-phone advice on performing chest compressions, and the use of an automated external defibrillator if one is available, Glatter explained.
In this study, Bobrow's team examined data from more than 2,300 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occurred in Phoenix before and after a telephone-directed CPR program was implemented.
After introduction of the program, telephone-directed CPR rates rose from 44 to 53 percent, the study found. In addition, the time in which a patient received a first chest compression from a bystander fell from 256 to 212 seconds.
Best of all, patient survival rose from 9 percent to 12 percent, while "favorable patient outcomes" rose from 5.6 percent to 8.3 percent, the researchers said.
"Survival to hospital discharge with favorable neurologic outcome after cardiac arrest has generally been dismal," Glatter said. However, the new study finds that "when we work together as a community -- using a telephone-based CPR system involving dispatchers -- we can deliver life-saving chest compressions" to patients in need, he said.
Dr. Joseph Germano directs the Atrial Fibrillation Center at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. He agreed that the new approach "gets more patients to the hospital in better condition," which in turn should boost survival and better functional outcomes.
The study was published online May 4 in the journal JAMA Cardiology.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Joseph Germano, M.D., associate director, cardiac electrophysiology, and director, Atrial Fibrillation Center, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.; JAMA Cardiology, news release, May 4, 2016