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Patient gasping is an indicator of cardiac arrest survival

January 8, 2016

SAN DIEGO — Gasping patients in cardiac arrest tend to have better outcomes. This research finding was shared by Dr. Gordon Ewy at the Emergency Cardiovascular Care Update 2015.

According to Ewy, while breathing comes from the brain, gasping comes from the brainstem. For patients in v-fib cardiac arrest, gasping starts around the two-minute mark, crescendoing in frequency, and then decrescendoing until stopping about five minutes into an arrest.

For patients who had witnessed arrests, 55 percent were found to be gasping by their rescuer. In non-witnessed v-fib arrests, this number dropped to 16 percent. Early recognition of arrest and intervention was critical in resuscitating patients.

Ewy stressed this finding in the context of encouraging bystanders and rescuers to practice hands-only or compression-only CPR, which helps Myocardial Perfusion Pressure and in turn helps resuscitate the brain of a patient in primary cardiac arrest.

Patients with witnessed v-fib receiving compression-only CPR were more likely to continually gasp or start to gasp spontaneously. Of those who gasped, 39 percent were found to survive, while only 9 percent of the non-gasping patients had a positive outcome.

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