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Home > Topics > Survivability

Ore. CPR survival rates beat national average

Fifteen percent of patients in the Portland area leave the hospital alive, compared to 10 percent nationwide

By Lynne Terry
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. The woman resuscitated with the help of Gov. John Kitzhaber on Monday is one of the lucky few. Less than 10 percent of cardiac arrest patients nationwide who have had CPR performed on them survive, according to the American Heart Association.

Patients fare better in the Portland area, where 15 percent of patients later leave the hospital alive, said Dr. Jon Jui, Multnomah County's EMS medical director.

The higher survival rate stems largely from the response. Metro-area residents are quick to call 9-1-1, and emergency medical services are fast, Jui said.

Speed is crucial to the outcome of a cardiac arrest.

"Early intervention doubles the survival rate," Jui said. "Without CPR, the outcome is pretty poor."

Sudden cardiac arrest kills about 180,000 people every year in the United States. It occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, causing the heart to suddenly stop beating. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation pumps the oxygen in the blood stream to vital organs and the brain.

Without oxygen, the brain quickly dies.

"Every minute that CPR is not performed, you lose 10 percent (of brain function)," said Ken Burns, EMS battalion chief for Portland Fire & Rescue. "You get to zero pretty quick."

Paramedics perform CPR on person in cardiac arrest Co-workers and paramedics perform CPR on a man who went into sudden cardiac arrest in southeast Portland.

Kitzhaber snapped into his training as an emergency doctor when he saw the woman lying on the street. Any health professional would have done the same, Jui said.

But the public is often reluctant to intervene.

Nationwide, only a quarter of people who suffer a cardiac arrest receive CPR from a nonprofessional. The situation in Multnomah County is better, with about four in 10 getting help from a bystander.

For the best outcome, CPR needs to be performed within two minutes of sudden cardiac arrest, with an automated external defibrillator applied within five minutes. CPR gets the blood flowing, and an AED reboots the heart.

In the past decade, defibrillators have become commonplace in schools, government buildings, airports and fitness centers in the Portland area. That trend has also helped save lives.

They're easy to operate, Jui said, and come with auditory instructions.

CPR is also simple: rounds of 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths using some kind of protective barrier. Fears of contracting germs can make bystanders reluctant to perform standard CPR, which is why the American Heart Association recommends chest compressions, at 100 per minute, until help arrives.

Bystanders bridge a crucial gap until emergency responders arrive,  Burns said. "That allows us to provide definitive care. If nobody does anything for 10 minutes, the likelihood of saving them is not very high."

Members of the public should always call 9-1-1 first. Even if they are not CPR certified, dispatchers are trained to walk everyone through performing CPR.

Classes abound in the Portland area, with one a day sponsored by the American Red Cross. Portland Fire is also restarting CPR classes.

Jui would like more offerings. He thinks the training should be mandatory in schools.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
"Teenagers and college students are the best people to do CPR," Jui said. "They're willing, young and able and they have no fear."

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