Updated CPR guidelines recommend dispatcher instruction, rescue breaths for children

More cardiac arrest victims will survive if emergency medical dispatchers give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instructions over the phone and if infants and children receive rescue breaths in addition to chest compressions, according to updated CPR guidelines released Nov. 7 by the American Heart Association (AHA).

More than 350,000 Americans suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year. Immediate bystander aid has been shown to double or triple survival chances, according to the AHA, but currently only half of dispatchers provide CPR instructions via telephone.

The AHA pointed out these telephone instructions could assist an untrained caller as well as reinforce proper technique to a CPR-trained caller dealing with a stressful situation.

In addition, more than 7,000 children die from out-of-hospital cardiac arrests each year, mostly because of a lack of oxygen. Rescue breaths can help sustain oxygenated blood flow, according to the AHA.

“The 2017 Focused Updates validate what we already know about performing CPR and offer a scientific basis for optimizing CPR quality to save more lives,” Karl Kern, MD, chair of the Association’s Emergency Cardiovascular Care Committee and professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said in a press release. “It’s critically important to translate new science to bedside care as quickly as possible, especially as the amount of scientific research available is growing rapidly.”

The guidelines were previously updated every five years, but 2017 marks the first year in which the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation is moving to an annual format. The AHA represents the United States on the committee.