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Department of Internal Medicine
CPR: The Difference between Life and Death
University of Iowa Health Science Relations and
Lance Heern, RN
Emergency Medical Services Learning Resources Center
First Published: November 2000
Peer Review Status: Internally Peer Reviewed
- Does cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) save lives? A group
of young Iowa heroes knows for a fact that it does.
- While giving swimming lessons at a municipal pool, lifeguards
noticed a swimmer at the bottom of the pool. They pulled him from
the pool, called 911 and started CPR. The lifeguards successfully
resuscitated the young boy, who made a full recovery.
- In an effort to help save more lives, the American Heart
Association trains thousands of people in cardiopulmonary
resuscitation (CPR) each year.
- "When performed effectively, CPR can double a sudden cardiac
arrest victim's chances of surviving," said Lance Heern, a staff
member in the Emergency Medical Services Learning Resources Center
at the UI Hospitals and Clinics.
- Cardiovascular disease is the nation's No. 1 killer, and many
deaths--about 220,000 per year--occur suddenly and without warning
due to sudden cardiac arrest. A victim is likely to die within
minutes if CPR and defibrillation do not occur. CPR can add
critical minutes to a sudden cardiac arrest victim's life by
pumping blood and oxygen to vital organs such as the heart, brain
and lungs. The signs of sudden cardiac arrest include an abrupt
loss of consciousness, collapse and the loss of normal breathing.
The majority of all sudden cardiac arrests occur at home (75-80
percent) and only about five percent of sudden cardiac arrest
- In addition to training thousands of National CPR Weekend
participants, the American Heart Association's basic and advanced
life support courses are used to train more than six million
people each year. The courses are provided through a network of
3,500 training centers and 250,000 instructors. The American Heart
Association's courses have been taught throughout the U.S. for
more than 30 years.
- National CPR Weekend is an important program supporting
Operation Heartbeat, the American Heart Association's national
grassroots initiative designed to increase the sudden cardiac
arrest survival rate. Operation Heartbeat encourages people to
learn the signs of sudden cardiac arrest, call 9-1-1 immediately
and perform CPR. Operation Heartbeat also promotes the
availability and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs),
which provide an electric shock that can reverse the deadly heart
rhythm present during most sudden cardiac arrests.
- The American Heart Association spent about $337 million during
fiscal year 1999-2000 on research support, public and professional
education, and community programs. Nationwide, the association has
grown to include more than 22.5 million volunteers and supporters
who carry out its mission in communities across the country. The
association is the largest voluntary health organization fighting
heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, which
annually kill about 950,000 Americans.