Stakeholders are calling for better CPR education after a study revealed Australia’s bystander CPR rates

New research by Monash University has revealed that almost 60% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) patients do not receive bystander CPR, despite its potential to more than double survival rates.

As it stands, only 12% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients survive to hospital discharge – dropping to 9% in some regions.

The study was undertaken by the Australian Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (Aus-ROC) and published in Resuscitation. It is the first to compare regional differences in the characteristics and outcomes of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest across Australia and New Zealand.

An estimated 24,373 Australians and 5,048 New Zealanders suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every year, according to the new research.

The researchers say there are significant opportunities to improve the public’s response to cardiac arrest, with an aim of improving survival.

The study included 2015 data from 19,722 OHCA cases, 15,129 in Australia (77%) and 4593 (23%) in New Zealand; only 41% received CPR from bystanders, though in cases when collapse was witnessed by a bystander, the incidence rose to 67%.

“Bystander CPR is a crucial component in what we call the ‘chain of survival’ – previous research has shown that patients who receive bystander CPR are more than two times more likely to survive their cardiac arrest,” said lead author and Deputy Head of Prehospital, Emergency and Trauma Research at Monash University Dr Ben Beck.

The authors write that several studies are underway in some regions to understand the barriers to bystander CPR and implement strategies to improve rates.

Meanwhile Professor Judith Finn, director of Aus-ROC, said that Australia’s results actually look quite promising compared to international rates.

“We are fortunate to have some of the best survival rates in the world in Australia and New Zealand and we hope that we can continue to lead the way in cardiac arrest research,” said Professor Judith Finn, Director of Aus-ROC.

This is the first time that data from ambulance services across Australia and New Zealand have come together to look at variation in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest characteristics and outcomes.

It’s also the first time annual numbers can be accurately estimated, according to Dr Beck.

The findings mark the first results of the Aus-ROC Australian and New Zealand Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest epidemiology registry (‘Epistry’) since its establishment.The Epistry provides the first robust platform to understand regional differences in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest across Australia and New Zealand that will enable the optimisation of care provided to these patients with the aim of improving survival.

Seven ambulance services contributed data to the Epistry: Ambulance Victoria (Victoria), SA Ambulance Service (South Australia), St John Ambulance Western Australia (Western Australia), Queensland Ambulance Service (Queensland), St John Northern Territory (Northern Territory), St John New Zealand (New Zealand), and Wellington Free Ambulance (New Zealand).