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Media fuel cardiac arrest illusion

Thursday December 15th, 2011

The British people may have a rosy view of the survival chances of people who suffer cardiac arrest, it was claimed today.

This is because newspapers tend to report success stories - and may over-state the survival chances of victims, according to analysis published today.

The story of someone who collapses and is saved by a "quick-thinking" bystander is common in newspapers.

An analysis of British newspapers over a six months period found 181 reports of cardiac arrest outside hospital. In 17.7 per cent of cases, the victims survived and were discharged with hospital - usually without significant brain damage.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, researchers say the true survival rate in European countries is thought to be ten per cent.

Richard Field, of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, says newspapers tend to be more interested in collapses in public places - where there is a good chance of a bystander being presented trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

This happens in 75 per cent of collapses in public places - but only 36 per cent of the majority of cases that occur in the home.

He says it is important that expectations of survival are "realistic" as this may influence willingness to learn CPR techniques. It may also influence decisions about "do not resuscitate" in hospital.

Other surveys have suggested the public believe 50 per cent of victims survive.

<!Cardiac arrest is different from heart attack but may be caused by a heart attack. It refers to the sudden failure of blood to circulate because the heart fails to beat.>

Mr Field said: “Public perception of outcome following a cardiac arrest is very important as it has the potential to influence the motivation for learning and performing CPR as well as making and/or supporting do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation (DNACPR) decisions.”

Epidemiology and outcome of cardiac arrests reported in the lay-press: an observational study. Richard A Field, Jasmeet Soar, Jerry P Nolan and Gavin D Perkins. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (JRSM) December 2011

Tags: A&E | Heart Health | UK News

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