CPR for COPD Patients

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) helps save lives, yet each year, almost 90% of people who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (sudden cessation of heart function) die.[1] When a cardiac arrest occurs at home, your loved one’s survival depends upon you knowing how to accurately perform CPR. If performed within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, CPR can double, even triple your loved one’s chances of survival.1
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Cardiac Arrest in COPD Patients

COPD is already the third leading cause of death in this country. According to a recent European study, it’s also associated with an increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest, that risk increasing with COPD severity.[2]

More than 13,000 people, aged 45 years or older, participated in the study. Of these, more than 1,600 had COPD. During the course of the study, 39% of the participants died, with 551 deaths related to sudden cardiac arrest. Fifteen percent of those who died had COPD.

The study concluded that having a diagnosis of COPD increased the risk of sudden cardiac arrest by 34 percent. What’s more, 5 years after being diagnosed with COPD, that risk nearly doubled and in COPD patients who suffer frequent COPD flare-ups, that risk more than tripled.2

Steps to Performing CPR

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation can save your loved one’s life. But remembering how to perform CPR during an emergency can be challenging. The simple step-by-step guide below, created by the Red Cross, can help you help your loved one in need. Simply print out this page and place on your refrigerator for easy access during an emergency:[3]

Before Giving CPR

  1. Make sure the scene and your loved one are safe and then tap your loved one on the shoulder and shout “Are you OK?”
  2. Call 911 or ask someone else in the home to call 911. If an AED is available, have someone retrieve the AED. If no AED or there is no one to access it, stay with your loved one, call 911 and begin administering assistance.
  3. Open the airway. With your loved one lying on their back, tilt the head back slightly to lift their chin.
  4. Check for breathing. Listen carefully for breathing for no more than 10 seconds by placing your ear next to your loved one’s nose and mouth. If no breathing, begin CPR.

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Red Cross CPR Steps

  1. Push hard, push fast. Place both hands on the middle of the chest, one on top of the other with your fingers interlaced. With your elbows straight, use your body weight to administer compressions that are at least 2 inches deep at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute.
  2. Deliver rescue breaths. With your loved one’s head tilted back and the chin lifted, pinch the nose and place your mouth over theirs forming a complete seal. Blow into your loved one’s mouth, watching for the chest to rise. Deliver two rescue breaths then resume compressions.

Note:  If the chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, re-tilt the head before delivering the second breath. If the chest doesn’t rise with the second breath, the person may be choking. After each subsequent set of 100 chest compressions, and before attempting breaths, look for an object in the mouth or back of throat and, if seen, remove it.

  1. Continue CPR. Keep performing cycles of chest compressions and rescue breathing until your loved one exhibits signs of life (such as breathing), an AED becomes available, or trained emergency professionals arrive on the scene.

Note: End CPR if the scene becomes unsafe or you’re unable to continue CPR due to exhaustion.

To see the steps to perform CPR in action, watch the Red Cross video Putting it All Together: CPR – Adult  on You Tube.

Preventing Sudden Cardiac Arrest in COPD Patients

That COPD is associated with an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest is not surprising, considering the main cause of COPD is smoking and smoking is the number one cause of heart disease.

The most important way to lower your risk for COPD and sudden cardiac arrest is to quit smoking and follow a heart-healthy lifestyle. Additionally, the following preventative treatments may help lower heart risks in COPD patients:2

  • Beta-blocker medications.
  • Implanted defibrillators to regulate the heart beat.
  • Avoiding certain medications (in accordance with your doctor’s instructions) that affect the heart’s electrical cycle such as adrenaline, certain cold remedies, some antibiotics, and antidepressants.

For more information about cardiopulmonary resuscitation and lowering your risk of sudden cardiac arrest, talk to your primary care provider.

[1] American Heart Association. CPR Facts and Stats. Accessed 3/29/2017.

[2]Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Girish B. Nair, M.D., director, Interstitial Lung Disease Program and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Winthrop-University Hospital, Mineola, N.Y.; European Heart Journal, news release, April 29, 2015

[3] American Red Cross. CPR Steps. Accessed 3/29/2017.

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