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Family Less Likely to Give CPR Than Strangers in Study

People with cardiac arrest are more likely to get cardiopulmonary resuscitation from strangers than members of their own family, especially wives, according to a study in Japan.

Friends and colleagues were twice as probable and bystanders were 1.5 times more likely to perform CPR, a procedure used on a person whose heart has stopped or is no longer breathing, the research showed. The study was presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting held in Los Angeles today.

Patients found by family members had the lowest survival rate, the study said. Wives were least likely to administer the chest compressions and rescue breathing involved in CPR, researchers said. The findings suggest a combination of cultural, emotional and demographic issues may be at play.

“If you go into cardiac arrest in front of your family, you may not survive,” Hideo Inaba, professor of emergency medicine at Kanazawa University who led the study, said in an interview. “Humans want to be optimistic when it comes to about family members and hesitate to take actions. Whereas colleagues, friends and strangers respond much quicker.”

In Japan where many of the elderly people live with a spouse only, wives haven’t had enough training to give CPR to husbands, Inaba said. Japanese women are less likely to give CPR to men compared with men because they are taught to be humble and seek decisions for others such as bosses, husbands and in-laws in the society, he said.

Family members were the most likely to receive telephone instruction from dispatchers, though the instruction most frequently failed, the study said.

Study Data

The study analyzed information of 139,265 Japanese cases of cardiac arrest outside of hospitals and any involvement of physicians. The data was extracted from Japan’s nationwide database of 547,218 cases between January 2005 and December 2009.

About 194,900 people died from heart diseases, or 16 percent of all deaths, last year in Japan, the second-biggest cause of deaths in the country after cancer, according to Japan’s health ministry data. In the U.S., an estimated 325,000 deaths are caused by sudden cardiac arrest every year, a leading cause of mortality, according to Heart Rhythm Foundation in Washington D.C., an affiliate of Heart Rhythm Society.

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