Last updated November 29, 2017 at 11:57 am
You’re walking down the street and feel a squeezing in your chest. You drop to your knees, then to the ground, your only hope is if someone nearby knows CPR. Whether or not they actually step up and perform the life-saving measure is a different question – and if you’re male, you’re in luck.
According to research presented at an American Heart Association conference, men are more likely to receive CPR from bystanders in public locations compared to women, and they are more likely to survive.
Researchers examined 19,000 cardiac arrests in home and in public, and found that in a public place in the United States, 45 percent of men received CPR from bystanders compared to 39 percent of women. While bystander CPR in the US is relatively rare in general – occurring in only about 37 percent of all cardiac events in public, men were 1.23 times more likely to receive it.
Receiving bystander CPR is an important factor in surviving a sudden cardiac arrest outside of hospital. Those minutes between the event and receiving professional assistance from ambulance crews or medical staff make a significant difference between surviving a cardiac event and not, with patients who receive bystander CPR two to three times more likely to survive.
“Bystanders are the critical first link in the chain of survival and can help keep patients alive before our highly-trained paramedics arrive,” Dr Karen Smith from Ambulance Victoria, who wasn’t involved with the study, said. “Patients who received bystander CPR were much more likely to be found in a shockable rhythm, the cardiac rhythm most favourable to survival.”
The new study also found that, compared to women, men were also nearly two times more likely to survive a cardiac event after receiving bystander CPR, which could indicate a better quality of CPR being given to the men.
While the rates of aid differed when the victim was in a public place, the team also looked at in-home CPR but found there was no gender differences. In the home 35 percent of women and 36 percent of men received CPR from family or friends. Together with the difference in survival rates, this suggests that people may be less comfortable delivering CPR to a woman they do not know, rather than a man because of physical barriers. “CPR involves pushing on the chest so that could make people less certain whether they can or should do CPR in public on women,” said Audrey Blewer, who led the research. “Regardless of someone’s gender or how their body is shaped, delivering bystander CPR during cardiac arrest is absolutely critical, as it has been proven to double and even triple a victim’s chance of survival.”
Blewer’s colleague, Benjamin Abella added “We need to find better and more effective ways to educate the general public on the importance of providing bystander CPR, and the importance of being comfortable delivering it regardless of the factors like the gender, age, or even the weight of the person in need.”
Bystander CPR rates in Australia are generally much higher than the US, with a separate recent Ambulance Victoria study finding around 64 per cent of onlookers attempted CPR if they witnessed someone collapse in cardiac arrest. However, a similar breakdown of aid given to male or female patients hasn’t been carried out locally.
We’re lucky in Australia to have a society that (hopefully) looks out for each other. If you do see someone in trouble in the street, lend a hand. Call Triple Zero and do what you can regardless of their gender. And if you’re not sure what you can do to help or how to do CPR, the people manning the Triple Zero number will be able to help you out and talk you through it. Or even better get a first aid certificate. Because it might not be you this time, but one day you could be in the victim’s position and you’ll be hoping someone comes to your aid.