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Oct 18, 2013

Widespread CPR Education Improves Survival Rates

National program in Denmark increased CPR bystander rates and tripled survival rates for sudden cardiac arrest.

When a person goes into sudden cardiac arrest, CPR can double or triple chances of survival. The trouble is that many people lack CPR training, so they’re hesitant to perform it in emergency situations. Fortunately, a national initiative in Denmark found that increased CPR education drastically increases survival rates for individuals suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

The impact of Denmark’s CPR initiative was evaluated in a study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. About eight years ago, Denmark started a campaign to teach residents to perform CPR. The government distributed 150,000 training kits, kids began learning CPR at a young age, and knowing CPR was made a requirement for receiving a driver’s license.

Now, nearly a decade later, investigators from the Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte assessed whether the initiative had any impact on survival rates. After identifying nearly 20,000 individuals who experienced sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital anytime between 2001 and 2010, they found that the number of bystanders stepping in to perform CPR more than doubled from 21 to 45%. And not surprisingly, people in Demark today are three times more likely to survive than they were in 2001. In 2001, only 7.9% of patients suffering sudden cardiac arrest were still alive when they got to a hospital but by 2010, nearly 22% of patients made it there alive. Researchers also found that 30-day survival increased from 3.5% to 11%.

Given the program’s success, experts hope to bring similar initiatives to the United States in the near future. It’s clear that education increases bystander CPR rates, which in turn increases chances of survival after sudden cardiac arrest. By implementing programming that educates the public about CPR, we can help prepare people for emergency situations to improve outcomes.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death can result from sudden cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest must be immediately addressed with CPR and medical attention to improve chances of survival.
  • What causes sudden cardiac death?

  • Sudden cardiac death is most often caused by arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, that cause the heart to stop beating. However, it can be the result of many other cardiac causes, and usually results in death within 1 hour of the onset of symptoms.

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