Older Americans less likely to receive CPR during in-home cardiac arrest

The aging population in the United States faces a unique challenge in its fight against sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). A recent study found the chances of someone performing CPR during an in-home SCA decline with the victim’s age.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, research from Penn Medicine also noted relatively low rates of CPR training among older Americans, which compounds the problem as baby-boomers continue to retire.

Researchers, led by Benjamin Abella, MD, MPhil, director of Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science, surveyed 9,022 people statistically representative of the U.S. population. Results showed 65 percent had received CPR training at some point in their lives, with just 18 percent in the last two years.

The study found a victim’s chances of receiving bystander CPR decreases significantly by age. For example, a 50-year-old who suffers a SCA at home is 62 percent more likely to receive CPR than an 80-year-old.

“The new data affirms the need for targeted training in the older population,” said Abella, who is also an associate professor in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “There is a striking relationship between age and CPR training and delivery that is really important to better understand.”

More than 350,000 SCA events occur outside of a hospital setting. Less than a third of them (32 percent) receive CPR, and that rate drops lower when comparing those occurring in the home versus public settings. Training also decreases with household income and education levels.

“This is a teachable moment,” Abella said. “We need more aggressive, innovative, and creative efforts to reach the population at risk. For example, we should consider training videos while you’re waiting for a train, renewing your driving licenses, or in the waiting room before you see your doctor.”

Abella added that his team has conducted video instructional work in hospitals, which has been well received. He is interested in pursuing outreach outside healthcare settings.