CPR: Myths and Realities
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CPR: Myths and Realities

A description of what CPR can and can not do, as well as why it is important that people be trained in CPR

Hollywood has created an entirely warped view of CPR. Most people commonly believe that CPR can restart a stalled heart and directly save a life. In this article, I will try to dispel some common myths about CPR, as well as explain why it is so important and valuable to learn proper CPR.

First, let's start off with what CPR isn't. CPR alone will (almost) never restart a heart. Cardiac arrest usually manifests with a disturbed electrical state of the heart. Pushing on the chest does not reset this activity. One exception to this can be when the heart stopped because breathing had been interrupted or stopped. In this case, once the airway is cleared and oxygenated air is present in the lungs, CPR can occasionally restart the heart.

So, the image on TV of the protagonist ferociously pounding on the chest until the dead person suddenly wakes up and starts talking again is blatantly false. When a person is ill enough that their heart spontaneously stops, there is usually something serious enough going on that will cause the individual to still be in trouble until that underlying issue is fixed. If you ever find an unconscious person and perform CPR on them, don't expect that they will wake up talking to you (unless they were just sleeping, in which case they will simply be annoyed with you.)

So then, if CPR doesn't magically wake them up, why do it?

Within 4-6 minutes of breathlessness and pulselessness, the human brain starts to have damage from lack of oxygen circulating through it. CPR's value is that it can increase this amount of time by circulating approximately 35% of the blood that proper heartbeats do. This doesn't directly save a person, but what it does do is buy time for the ambulance to come. The ambulance has specialized tools and medications to help restart the heart by correcting the electrical issue causing the arrest. Since ambulances are very rarely "right there" when an arrest happens, this is extremely valuable and important.

If you witness a person go into cardiac arrest, the most important thing you can do to save the person's life is to call 911 (or your local emergency number) to ensure that the ambulance is on the way and will be there as quickly as possible. After you have done that, perform CPR as you were trained in the CPR class you took. (If you have never taken a CPR class, please do find and take one. Without CPR being started quickly, the chances that an ambulance crew will be able to arrive in time to restart the heart are slim to none.)

You could help save a life!

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Comments (1)

Good information. I know CPR. More people should in case of disaster. Contact Red Cross for course info.