Many Unable to Determine If A Victim Is Breathing

Dec. 17, 1999
Study shows those who perform CPR find it difficult to determine if an unconscious person is breathing.

When it comes to performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), many people are unable to correctly determine whether or not an unconscious person is breathing, a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine suggests.

Indeed, the average person should not waste too much time figuring out whether or not someone is breathing and call emergency services right away, according to Dr. Matthias Ruppert and colleagues from the University of Munich Medical School in Germany.

In a study, 261 people -- including emergency medical services personnel, physicians, medical students and laypersons -- assessed a test person and a manikin for breathlessness.

The test person was unresponsive and either breathing or not, while the manakin was modified for simulated respiratory function.

Overall, 81 percent of the time, the breathing status of the subject was correctly diagnosed. The correct diagnosis was achieved by 89.7 percent of paramedics, 84.5 percent of physicians, 78.4 of medical students and 71.5 percent of laypersons.

However, since the statistical probability of the correct diagnosis is 50 percent, "the diagnostic accuracy must be judged as quite insufficient," reported Ruppert and his colleagues.

The subjects used the correct technique in making the diagnosis -- defined by European Resuscitation Council (ERC) guidelines as "look, listen and feel" -- only 55.6 percent of the time.

The researchers noted that American Heart Association guidelines recommend 3 to 5 second to diagnosis, while the ERC recommends 10 seconds to make a diagnosis.

Since the median time to diagnosis in the study was 12 seconds, the researchers suggested that the recommended time "does not seem to be practical."

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

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