Cardiac arrest (sudden stopping of the pumping
function of the heart) is an important cause of sudden death. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which involves performing chest compressions and rescue breathing (see below), is a temporary procedure that can be used to maintain
some blood flow to the brain, heart, and other vital organs until trained
medical personnel are available to provide more advanced treatment. Studies
have found that CPR is most effective when started as soon as possible after
cardiac arrest (ie, within minutes of the arrest) and when trained medical
personnel arrive within 8 to 12 minutes of the arrest. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
should be performed only by persons trained in the technique because specific
CPR recommendations vary depending on the patient's age and the cause of arrest.
If performed incorrectly, CPR may be ineffective or harmful. Because most
cardiac arrests occur outside the hospital, it is important for laypersons
to be trained in CPR. The January 19, 2005, issue of JAMA contains 2 articles evaluating CPR performed by trained personnel
in both in-hospital and out-of-hospital settings.