Americans Lack Confidence In Common Cardiac Emergency

Armen Hareyan's picture

Most Americans don't believe they could perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to help save a life in a cardiac emergency, according to a recent American Heart Association survey.

In an online survey of more than 1,100 adults, 89 percent said they were willing and able to do something to help if they witnessed a medical emergency. Yet only 21 percent were confident they could perform CPR, and only 15 percent believed they could use an AED in an emergency. More than half of those surveyed didn't recognize an AED in a typical setting. Survey respondents reported lack of confidence, concern about legal consequences and fear of hurting a victim as reasons they would not take action in a cardiac emergency.

The American Heart Association released the survey results as part of the inaugural National CPR/AED Awareness Week, June 1-7. The intent of the week is to encourage the public to get CPR training and learn how to use an AED to reduce death and disability from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA).

Unfortunately, only about six percent of out-of-hospital SCA victims survive. Without immediate, effective CPR, the chance of surviving out-of-hospital SCA decreases seven to 10 percent per minute. Even if CPR is performed, defibrillation with an AED is required to stop the abnormal rhythm and restore a normal heart rhythm.

"We think it's critical for people to get CPR training and learn how to use an AED," said Lance Becker, M.D., professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and spokesperson for the American Heart Association. "CPR and AED use are inextricably linked in the SCA survival chain, and it's crucial that bystanders take rapid action. If more people are trained and respond, we can save thousands more lives."

The American Heart Association provides classroom CPR and AED instruction, as well as a self-paced CPR Anytime Kit that includes an inflatable manikin and instructional DVD. The association's adult Hands-OnlyTM CPR educates untrained people to call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast on the center of an adult SCA victim's chest until help arrives.

Designed to be simple and intuitive, AEDs are available in many public places such as schools, airports and workplaces and will guide the user through the process with clear, calm voice cues. The devices are strategically deployed and maintained to ensure that they are ready in a medical emergency, and will not deliver a shock unless a shockable rhythm is detected.


"There's no reason for people to be afraid to act," Becker said. "We want people to feel confident that whatever action they choose -- whether using an AED or performing conventional CPR or adult Hands-Only CPR -- they are doing something to help, which could be a lifesaving decision."

SCA survivor Jenifer Fergusson knows first hand about the importance of people taking action. The New York native suffered an SCA at work when two coworkers immediately came to her aid. Due to their quick actions, Jenifer survived her cardiac event.

"My coworkers are true heroes," she said. "I'm so grateful they had the skills and courage to perform CPR and use a defibrillator when I went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, my company had an AED onsite. If my colleagues hadn't acted or the AED was not available, I might not be here today."

Other results from the survey include:

-- Sixty-five percent said they had received CPR training, but only 18 percent reported having received AED training.

-- Two-thirds of those trained in using CPR and AEDs were required to for their jobs, school or the military.

-- Respondents' reasons for not getting trained included not thinking about it or not being required.

-- Most respondents (89 percent) believe that providers of adult day care should be trained in using CPR and AEDs. Most (86 percent) also want training for child care workers.

-- The majority (88 percent) of people surveyed support requiring schools to have emergency plans, and 65 percent want public places to have AEDs on site.