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Many Unable to Determine If A Victim Is Breathing

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."

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