CPR Training

The best CPR training comes from formal classes run by professional healthcare workers trained to teach this life-saving procedure. Fortunately, those classes are not difficult to find. They've even been a part of the Boy Scout Handbook since way back in 1911.

CPR training becomes important when someone's heart has stopped beating. This cardiac arrest might be the result of injury or illness, drowning, or drug overdose. Regardless of the cause, the goal is to keep the person's blood circulating until emergency medical personnel can arrive and begin administration of more intensive procedures.

It is believed the Old Testament Hebrew prophet, Elisha, administered CPR to a boy thousands of years ago. In the second Book of Kings, verse 4:34 describes how Elisha warmed the boy's body and “places his mouth over his.” CPR training has changed since then but the overwhelming desire to revive life is timeless.

The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR), which establishes worldwide CPR training standards, announced new guidelines in 2005 that were designed to make the procedure easier for lay rescuers (all of us who are not medical professionals) to successfully perform CPR. While ILCOR standards are respected, they aren't universally followed. They still include the need for the rescuer to provide assisted ventilation, just as Elisha provided, but other governing bodies, including the American Heart Association (AHA), do not advocate the practice.

Instead, the AHA's 2008 recommendations call for CPR training that relies on compression-only assistance. The association bases its recommendation on the many studies that indicate better outcomes can be achieved with compressions alone. One theory behind better outcomes with just compression is that the interruption of compressions required while the rescuer administers assisted breathing is counterproductive and may reduce the benefit of the compressions.

When cardiac arrest occurs, a rescuer has only a few minutes to begin CPR with any hope of success. It is impossible to get the heart beating again by administering CPR; the benefit from the procedure is that it keeps the blood circulating in the absence of a working heart and, in doing so, keeps cellular tissue throughout the body oxygenated and alive.

Students of CPR training classes will learn that brain cells can safely lie dormant, without blood flow, only four to six minutes. After that time, cellular damage becomes so severe that to attempt CPR after six minutes causes more harm than good. When blood flow is rapidly restored to brain cells deprived of oxygen longer than six minutes, the sudden infusion of fresh blood caused by CPR only causes more damage. Survival after six minutes requires the administration of several highly technical procedures that work together to slowly resuscitate the patient.

Recent studies have demonstrated a survival rate as high as 79% when gradual restoration procedures were administered versus a 15% survival rate when traditional CPR was administered after the six-minute interval.

The most effective CPR compressions closely mimic a normal heart beat, steady and rhythmic. One study of CPR training made some amusing but ironic headlines last year when it was discovered the very best results were achieved when rescuers administered compressions while keeping time to the beat of the Bee Gees' hit song, Stayin' Alive.