Dallas, TX – The recommended way to do CPR has changed, and it's saving lives in North Texas. A certified CPR Trainer taught KERA's BJ Austin how to do the newest technique, and we got it on video. BJ says the change to CPR came about as part of a nationwide study on how to improve survival rates for cardiac arrest patients.
Most victims of sudden cardiac arrest do not survive. But Steven Shelley of Carrollton is one of the lucky ones. He collapsed on the job, the nightshift at an electronics warehouse. Co-workers immediately called 9-1-1. Paramedics were there within five minutes. Several months later, Shelley met the paramedics who brought him back to life.
Shelley: WOW. I thank you for receiving the training, applying that training, and having the professionalism and everything. My wife and I are very thankful to both of you. It's a real blessing to meet you.
Carrollton paramedics are among North Texas first-responders in the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, known as ROC. It's a multi-year study designed to improve cardiac survival rates. Paramedic DeMoss Collins says when Shelley collapsed, they were testing a new CPR device. But it appears that's not what saved Shelley's life. Dr. Ahamed Idris, director of Emergency Medicine Research at UT Southwestern Medical Center says paramedics had changed the way they performed CPR: doing continuous chest compressions instead of "mouth to mouth" resuscitation.
Idris: The paramedics had a tendency of emphasizing control of the airway and providing good ventilation first. This is how they were trained because we thought it was the right thing to do. It turns out that the priority is to start chest compression immediately before anything else. The next step is to apply the monitor and defibrillator and determine if the person needs a shock. Then the last priority is to control the airway and give ventilation.
And Dr. Idris says the new training increased the cardiac arrest survival rate in Dallas County by 60%. It also flipped another long-held belief about cardiac arrest emergency treatment.
Idris: There is a belief that getting the person to the hospital as quickly as possible is beneficial, and that's not true. In fact, if a person is not resuscitated where you find them, it's unlikely that they will leave the hospital alive or in very good condition.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of CPR. Doctors and medical personnel were the first to use mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions to resuscitate cardiac arrest patients in 1960. Citizen training came several years later. American Heart Association CPR instructor Sherrie Wilson says this latest method - chest compressions only -- is easier to learn and do.
Wilson: Interlock you fingers and your hands. Lock you elbows, directly above the chest, mid-nipple, mid-sternum and begin your compressions. Keep these compressions going until EMS gets here.
The best chance to survive cardiac arrest in the U.S. is Seattle. Dr. Idris says most of the population is trained to do CPR, and that accounts for the Seattle's 16% survival rate. Dallas' survival rate may sound low in comparison, but, it's above the "national" rate, and improving.
Idris: Our survival rate was 4%. Now, it's 6.9%. We're going to catch up with Seattle. It'll take us a few years. We want our citizens to learn CPR. That is the best chance for survival.
This month, more than 3,000 Dallas School District high school students learned CPR. This summer, the American Heart Association will be in Dallas-area shopping malls on Saturdays - teaching people the "hands-only" method. And, the American Heart Association wants one million people to learn CPR during National CPR Week, June 1-7.