Objectives: Our purpose with this investigation was to (i) estimate how often telephone-guided cardiopulmonary resuscitation was offered from emergency medical service dispatchers in Stockholm, (ii) study the willingness to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and (iii) assess factors that could mislead the dispatcher in identifying the patient as a cardiac arrest victim.
Methods: In this prospective study, 313 consecutive emergency calls of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest were obtained from the Swedish Cardiac Arrest Register. Seventy-six cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest fulfilled the inclusion criteria. All alarm calls were tape-recorded and analyzed according to a standardized protocol.
Results: Dispatchers offered bystanders telephone instructions for cardiopulmonary resuscitation in 47% (n=36) of the cases and, among these, cardiopulmonary resuscitation instructions were given in 69% (n=25). Only 6% (n=2) of bystanders were not willing to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Signs of breathing (suspected agonal breathing) were described in 45% of the cases. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation was offered to 23% (n=10) of patients with signs of breathing versus 92% (n=23) of those who were not breathing (P<0.001).
Conclusions: Despite the fact that the vast majority of bystanders are willing to take part in telephone-guided cardiopulmonary resuscitation, emergency medical service dispatchers offer telephone-guided cardiopulmonary resuscitation in about only half of cases. Signs of breathing (agonal breathing) are often mistaken for normal breathing and are a cause of delay in the diagnosis of cardiac arrest.