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More North Texans Surviving Sudden Cardiac Arrest

David Bruce Jr.
(cc) flickr

Study results being released today in 'Circulation' magazine confirm what KERA reported two years ago- that repeated chest compressions have dramatically improved the survival rate for cardiac arrest patients.

The survival rate for cardiac arrest patients has improved dramatically, thanks to research being done in North Texas and around the country.

In 2006 a sudden cardiac arrest victim in Mesquite had just a three percent chance of surviving. Last year that survival rate was four times higher- 12 percent. The reason?

Paramedics and doctors discovered that instead of first trying to get the patient to a hospital or use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the most important immediate treatment is repeated chest compressions.

“What we saw when we first started collecting these files in 2004 was a lot of chest compression interruptions,” said Dr. Ahamed Idris, Director of Emergency Medicine Research at Dallas’ UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“The paramedics believed that getting the patient to the hospital as quickly as possible was the best thing they could do. And that meant they would stop doing chest compression to get the patient into the ambulance” said Idris, who is the lead investigator on the study which is funded through the National Institutes of Health.

“We put a stop to that in 2006 and we trained our firefighters and paramedics over and over and over again until they were doing the kind of chest compression we want them to do” said Idris.

Dr. Idris says the goal is 100 chest compressions per minute. He suggests singing the song, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” aloud, and administering one compression each time you sing a word. Dr. Idris says it’s something citizens should know how to do in an emergency.

“Call 9-1-1 immediately, then start chest compressions. And they can do it. All they need to do is put their hands in the middle of the chest and press as hard as they can about 100 times a minute and keep going until the paramedics arrive.” said Idris.

Dr. Idris says researchers have seen improved survival rates in many cities where chest compressions are being used effectively. In Dallas survival increased 141% over five years. In Carrollton it jumped 340%. In Irving 33% more cardiac arrest patients lived.

Dr. Idris says emergency medicine providers are now testing additional techniques with the goal of doubling the improved survival rate in five years.

Idris Circulation Article

Former KERA staffer Shelley Kofler was news director, managing editor and senior reporter. She is an award-winning reporter and television producer who previously served as the Austin bureau chief and legislative reporter for North Texas ABC affiliate WFAA-TV.