Posted on 12/26/2010

The 500th survivor of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Arizona may be one of the most significant advances for the University of Arizona’s Resuscitation Research Group and the Save Hearts in Arizona Registry & Education (SHARE) Program during 2010.

Arizona research also spurred the American Heart Association to adopt new guidelines that stress chest compressions over breathing by bystanders in the event of sudden cardiac arrest – an advance ranked by Time Magazine (Dec. 9) as the fifth most significant medical breakthrough in 2010. The technique – known as Compression-Only CPR – was developed by the Resuscitation Research Group at the UA Sarver Heart Center, which published research in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Oct. 16) that showed that during a five-year study in Arizona, chest-compression-only CPR increased survival in cases of cardiac arrest.

“The SHARE Program promotes a comprehensive, standardized system of care for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest throughout Arizona, encompassing all links in the chain of survival, including bystander response, emergency medical dispatcher CPR instruction, updated protocols for emergency medical services providers, and standardized care at hospitals that are designated cardiac receiving centers,” says Bentley Bobrow, MD, medical director of emergency medical services at the Arizona Department of Health Services and a member of the UA Sarver Heart Center Resuscitation Research Group.

SHARE, established in 2005, has partnered with many groups to collect and analyze data related to all aspects of out-of-hospital-cardiac arrest care. During 2010, SHARE logged-in the 500th survivor of cardiac arrest in Arizona, a number that has more than doubled since the program began five years ago.

“In Arizona we have an estimated 1,250 cases of sudden cardiac arrest each year. Prior to 2005, only about 3 percent were likely to survive,” says Karl B. Kern, MD, acting chief of cardiology at the UA College of Medicine and chair of the Resuscitation Research Group. “With new protocols that include encouraging bystander chest-compression-only CPR, less invasive protocols for emergency responders and updated protocols that include therapeutic hypothermia at hospitals, survival has more than doubled to about 8 percent. This means an increase of about 60 additional lives saved each year.”

“We can’t overstate the role of fire departments in educating their communities and their willingness to embrace new protocols that are helping to save lives in Arizona,” says Dr. Bobrow. “Each year in Arizona an estimated 5,000 EMS professionals work on out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases. With continued measurement of these incidents and outcomes along each link in the chain of survival, we hope to see more lives saved with what we learn from this data.”

Sudden cardiac arrest is the witnessed (seen or heard) collapse of a person who is unresponsive and either not breathing or struggling to breathe (gasping). Bystanders are encouraged to check for responsiveness (shake and shout), direct someone to call 911 or make the call themselves if alone, and begin rapid chest compressions to keep the patient’s blood flowing until emergency responders arrive.

To see a six-minute training video, visit