Two studies show bystanders are less likely to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on women than on men who suffer cardiac arrest due to concerns of inappropriate contact or inflicting injury.
The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Resuscitation Science Symposium, an international conference featuring the most outstanding researches in the field of cardiovascular resuscitation.
While the odds of surviving cardiac arrest is below 12 percent, administering CPR can possibly double or even triple a victim’s chances of surviving.
“Bystander CPR has been linked to better survival and neurologic recovery after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Quality chest compressions require that rescuers put their hands on the chest and push hard—regardless of (recipient’s) gender, the act of CPR is no different,” Sarah Perman, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and lead author on the study, explained.
Unfortunately, Perman noted that previous researches indicated women who experience cardiac arrest outside the hospital receive CPR less frequently than men.
The doctor and her collegues asked online participants to explain, with no word limit, why bystanders might hesitate in giving a womam CPR.
In the survey of the Colorado researchers, they discovered that: fear of potentially inappropriate touching or exposure; fear of being accused of sexual assault; fear of causing physical injury; poor recognition of women in cardiac arrest because of a perception that women are less likely to have heart problems, or may be overdramatizing or “faking” an incident; or the misconception that breasts make CPR more challenging prevent individuals from administering the emergency resucitation.
“The consequences of all of these major themes is that women will potentially receive no CPR or delays in initiation of CPR,” Perman said.
Men were noticably worried of being accused of sexual assault or inappropriate touching. In the study, men cited fear of being linked to inappropriate sexual behavior twice more compared to the women. The females, on the other hand, were more concerned of causing injury.
“While these are actual fears the public holds, it is important to realize that CPR is lifesaving and should be rendered to collapsed individuals regardless of gender, race or ethnicity," she urged.
Although the lead researcher admitted that the study was "too small to discern definite trends," the results likely represent important issues in public health.
A separate research in Philadelphia supported the findings of the Colorado team.
Marion Leary, director of innovation research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Resuscitation Science and lead author of the study, used a novel approach to explore bystander response to cardiac arrest based on the victim’s sex through using virtual reality.
"Because it happens suddenly, real-world cardiac arrest is hard to study. But using virtual reality, scientists can learn more about bystander response and how to improve CPR training courses," Leary said.
The consisted of 75 adults who unaware of the virtual environment, were asked to respond as if they were experiencing a real-life emergency.
"A CPR manikin was kept out of sight until participants were in the virtual environment. Then the manikin was placed in real life at the location where the victim would collapse in the virtual world, allowing participants to perform CPR (and attach an automated external defibrillator, or AED) in the virtual environment while receiving “hands-on” feedback in the real environment," Leary explained.
The team found that in their descriptive study, participants in their cohort performed CPR or used an AED on virtual-reality female victims less than on virtual male victims.
While similar to Perman's initial survey, a bigger sample is necessary to statistically identify significant gender gaps and to confirm the trend -- the hesitations at this levwl should already be debunked.
Leary countered the qualms of the participants and insisted on the importance of administering emergency resucitation, "Regardless of the victim’s sex, if you see someone collapse, call 911, begin CPR, and if there is an AED around, use it.”
To those who relate with the same concerns, the professor has this piece of advice: “Doing something is better than doing nothing. You have the power to help save someone’s life.”
As of this writing, Perman and her team have expanded the pilot survey to a larger number of participants and have a manuscript under review.
The research team also plans conduct seminars at CPR training sites to adress the misconception about providing CPR to women.