Jamaica Gleaner / ANAHEIM, California (AP):
Women are less likely than men to get CPR from a bystander and more likely to die, a new study suggests, and researchers think reluctance to touch a woman’s chest might be one reason.
Only 39 per cent of women suffering cardiac arrest in a public place were given CPR versus 45 per cent of men, and men were 23 per cent more likely to survive, the study found.
It involved nearly 20,000 cases around the United States and is the first to examine gender differences in receiving heart help from the public versus professional responders.
“It can be kind of daunting thinking about pushing hard and fast on the centre of a woman’s chest”, and some people may fear that they are hurting her, said Audrey Blewer, a University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) researcher who led the study.
Rescuers also may worry about moving a woman’s clothing to get better access, or touching breasts to do CPR, but doing it properly “shouldn’t entail that”, said another study leader, U Penn’s Dr Benjamin Abella. “You put your hands on the sternum, which is the middle of the chest. In theory, you’re touching in between the breasts.”
The study was discussed yesterday at an American Heart Association conference in Anaheim.
Cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping, usually because of a rhythm problem.
More than 350,000 Americans each year suffer one in settings other than a hospital. About 90 per cent of them die, but CPR can double or triple survival odds.
LIFE AND DEATH SITUATIONS
“This is not a time to be squeamish because it’s a life and death situation,” said Abella.
Researchers had no information on rescuers or why they may have been less likely to help women. But no gender difference was seen in CPR rates for people who were stricken at home, where a rescuer is more likely to know the person needing help.
The study suggested that CPR training may need to be improved.
But even the training may be subtly biased towards males as practice mannequins (they’re not called “woman-nequins”) are usually male torsos, said Audrey Blewer, a University of Pennsylvania (U Penn) researcher who led the study.
“All of us are going to have to take a closer look at this” gender issue, said the Mayo Clinic’s Dr Roger White, who co-directs the paramedic programme for the city of Rochester, Minnesota.
He said that he has long worried that large breasts may impede proper placement of defibrillator pads if women need a shock to restore normal heart rhythm.
The Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health funded the study.