MONDAY, 5 November 2018 – Some outsiders may avoid CPR in women because they are afraid of hurting them or even accusing them of sexual assault, suggest preliminary research.
In two new studies, researchers have tried to delve deeper into the mysterious pattern that has been observed in previous studies: women are less likely than men to get deliberate CPR if they get arrested in a public place.
One of the studies confirmed the phenomenon of the real world in a controlled environment: It was found that even in the "virtual reality" simulations, the participants less often performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation when the virtual victim was female and not male.
People performed CPR in 65 percent of male victims, but only 54 percent of women.
A separate study, in which 54 adults participated, found several possible explanations.
The respondents said that outsiders may worry about hurting a woman during CPR chest compressions or be afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. Some say that people can also believe that women's breasts will be on their way to CPR.
Respondents also cited a misconception that women are less likely to have heart problems than men.
But the reality is that heart disease is the main killer of both women and men in the US, according to government data.
And when it hits a heart attack, CPR can save lives regardless of gender, said Dr. Sarah Perman, who led the survey.
People with cardiac arrest require immediate chest compressions, said Perman, an adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Medical College in Denver.
"Providing this procedure to save lives for women should be normalized, not sexualized," she said.
In the United States, over 356,000 people each year suffer from cardiac arrest outside the hospital. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), only about 11 percent will survive.
Survival is bleak, because without immediate treatment, cardiac arrest stops in a few minutes. But fast CPR can double or triple the chances of survival, says AHA.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops suddenly and can not pump blood and oxygen into the body. If the observer performs cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which keeps the victim's blood in circulation, buying time for the arrival of rescuers. Cardiac arrest is not a heart attack, which is caused by arterial occlusion that reduces blood flow to the heart.
"There are still many misunderstandings about cardiac arrest and CPR," said Dr. Aaron Donoghue from AHA and the University of Pennsylvania.
According to Donoghue, men and women benefit the same from chest compressions of CPR, adding that the belief that it can hurt women is "false".
Concerning the allegations of sexual assault, Donoghue noted that chest compressions are performed on the sternum (also known as the sternum, a long, flat bone in the middle of the chest) – not on the breast.
"It would be horrible if this fear would discourage a would-be rescuer to perform CPR," Donoghue said, who was not involved in the new study.
"Doing nothing is always worse than doing something," he added.
As part of the pilot study, the Permana team conducted a survey among 54 American adults. Participants were asked: "Do you have any ideas on why women are less likely to receive CPR than men when they fall in public?"
Their answers reflect their personal perceptions, Donoghue noted. So he said it's hard to tell if cardiac arrest witnesses really work on such beliefs in the real world.
Perman agreed, saying that more research is needed to understand why women have less chance of getting CPR. She and her colleagues have already conducted a larger survey, she said, but the results have not yet been published.
For now, Donoghue suggested that people should learn about cardiac arrest and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The AHA website is one place to start with, he said.
Both studies are scheduled for presentation on November 10 at the AHA meeting in Chicago. Studies presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Heart Association has tips for performing CPR.
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