Less than 1% Indians know cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Indians are far behind in the global surge to learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) - a combination of rescue breathing and chest compressions delivered to victims of cardiac arrest.

While several countries across the world are training the common man - in schools, colleges and even work places -- about chest compressions or CPR to save sudden cardiac victims from dying, the World Heart Federation ( WHF) says less than 1% Indians would presently know how to carry out a CPR.

The revelation is stark since 7.5 lakh people die of sudden cardiac arrests every year in India with over 80% of these emergencies occurring outside a hospital setting. On average, a victim begins to suffer irreversible brain damage four minutes after the cardiac arrest takes place and if no CPR is administered.

For every minute that a cardiac arrest victim does not receive CPR, his chances of survival drops by 10%. An effective CPR from a bystander can double a victim's chances of surviving a cardiac arrest.

Speaking to TOI, Dr K Srinath Reddy, the new president of the World Heart Federation, said, "Less than 1% Indians would know how to carry out a CPR. What's worse, even medical students in India aren't adequately trained in the correct technique of performing CPR. Most of them learn on the ground during internship if they have to revive a cardiac arrest patient."

Even families of patients in India don't know what a CPR is and view it suspiciously when performed by doctors. Take the example of the incident that occurred in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Hospital on Saturday night. A team of six doctors were assaulted when they were performing cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation to save a 16-year-old girl's life. The procedure involved pressing down hard and rapidly on the chest and blowing into the patient's mouth.

Several of the city's top cardiologists and cardiac surgeons from the most popular hospitals told TOI that they are ready to teach common people on how to carry out a CPR.

Chairman of Medanta Medicity and cardiac surgeon Naresh Trehan told TOI that his hospital would be glad to teach common people the art of CPR. "If Resident Welfare Associations of Delhi put together teams of 30-40 people, we can teach them CPR in a few hours with demonstrations and hands-on experience for free," Trehan said.

Trehan added, "CPR is invaluable. If a person receives CPR within five minutes of collapsing, his or her chances of survival without any effect to the brain are 70%. If there is nobody around who knows CPR, chances of the person's survival are just 30%. Therefore, it will do tremendous good if students are taught CPR."

The American Heart Association's (AHA) latest advisory says that all high school students should be trained in CPR.

Dr Ashok Seth, chairman of Escorts Heart Centre, said students would be more willing to come forward and help if they see someone collapsing but will also feel good about saving lives without being a doctor.

"We have an AHA acreditated life support programme that goes to crowded places to teach general public ways of delivering emergency life support and CPR. We would be happy to send our teams to schools and colleges to teach students CPR if the school authorities agree," Dr Seth said.

Dr Sujay Shad, cardiac surgeon at Sir Gangaram Hospital, said the brain begins to experience non-reversible damage only two minutes after the heart stops beating. "Simply put, the sooner blood is forced through the body by means of chest compressions, the better the chance of survival. Unless you are trained in this simple but critical skill, there is little you can do. An arrest can occur after a heart attack.

"In such case, the victim still has ample air in the lungs and blood, and chest compressions keep blood flowing to the brain, heart and other organs. Bystander CPR has made a huge difference in the West in helping cardiac arrest patients," Dr Shad added.

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