You are leaving Medscape Education
Cancel Continue
Log in to save activities Your saved activities will show here so that you can easily access them whenever you're ready. Log in here CME & Education Log in to keep track of your credits.


American Heart Association Issues New Guidelines for Emergency Cardiovascular Care

  • Authors: News Author: Laurie Barclay, MD
    CME Author: Charles Vega, MD, FAAFP
  • CME Released: 12/1/2005; Reviewed and Renewed: 12/1/2006
  • Valid for credit through: 12/1/2007, 11:59 PM EST
Start Activity

Target Audience and Goal Statement

This article is intended for primary care physicians, emergency department physicians, cardiologists, and other specialists who care for patients with SCA.

The goal of this activity is to provide the latest medical news to physicians and other healthcare professionals in order to enhance patient care.

Upon completion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  • Identify the rate of survival of out-of-hospital CPR and the means to improve survival.
  • Specify the new recommended ratio of compressions to ventilation for adults receiving CPR.


As an organization accredited by the ACCME, Medscape requires everyone who is in a position to control the content of an education activity to disclose all relevant financial relationships with any commercial interest. The ACCME defines "relevant financial relationships" as "financial relationships in any amount, occurring within the past 12 months," that could create a conflict of interest.

Medscape encourages Authors to identify investigational products or off-label uses of products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at first mention and where appropriate in the content.


  • Laurie Barclay, MD

    Laurie Barclay is a freelance reviewer and writer for Medscape.


    Disclosure: Laurie Barclay, MD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.


  • Gary Vogin, MD

    Senior Medical Editor, Medscape


    Disclosure: Gary Vogin, MD, has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

CME Author(s)

  • Charles P Vega, MD

    Associate Professor, Residency Director, Department of Family Medicine, University of California, Irvine


    Disclosure: Charles Vega, MD, FAAFP, has disclosed that he has received grants for educational activities from Pfizer.

Accreditation Statements

    For Physicians

  • Medscape, LLC is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

    Medscape designates this educational activity for 0.5 Category 1 credit(s) toward the AMA Physician's Recognition Award. Each physician should claim only those credits that reflect the time he/she actually spent in the activity.

    Medscape Medical News (MMN) has been reviewed and is acceptable for up to 150 Prescribed credits by the American Academy of Family Physicians. AAFP accreditation begins 09/01/05. Term of approval is for 1 year from this date. This component is approved for 0.5 Prescribed credit. Credit may be claimed for 1 year from the date of this issue.

    Contact This Provider

    Contact This Provider

For questions regarding the content of this activity, contact the accredited provider for this CME/CE activity noted above. For technical assistance, contact [email protected]

Instructions for Participation and Credit

There are no fees for participating in or receiving credit for this online educational activity. For information on applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity, please consult your professional licensing board.

This activity is designed to be completed within the time designated on the title page; physicians should claim only those credits that reflect the time actually spent in the activity. To successfully earn credit, participants must complete the activity online during the valid credit period that is noted on the title page.

Follow these steps to earn CME/CE credit*:

  1. Read the target audience, learning objectives, and author disclosures.
  2. Study the educational content online or printed out.
  3. Online, choose the best answer to each test question. To receive a certificate, you must receive a passing score as designated at the top of the test. Medscape encourages you to complete the Activity Evaluation to provide feedback for future programming.

You may now view or print the certificate from your CME/CE Tracker. You may print the certificate but you cannot alter it. Credits will be tallied in your CME/CE Tracker and archived for 5 years; at any point within this time period you can print out the tally as well as the certificates by accessing "Edit Your Profile" at the top of your Medscape homepage.

*The credit that you receive is based on your user profile.


American Heart Association Issues New Guidelines for Emergency Cardiovascular Care

Authors: News Author: Laurie Barclay, MD CME Author: Charles Vega, MD, FAAFPFaculty and Disclosures

CME Released: 12/1/2005; Reviewed and Renewed: 12/1/2006

Valid for credit through: 12/1/2007, 11:59 PM EST


Dec. 1, 2005 — The American Heart Association (AHA) has published new guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency cardiovascular care (ECC) in the Nov. 28 Rapid Access issue of Circulation . The guidelines are available at: In revising the 2000 guidelines, the AHA has attempted to simplify existing guidelines and apply newly available evidence reviewed at the 2005 International Consensus Conference on CPR and ECC Science With Treatment Recommendations, hosted by the AHA and held in Dallas, Texas, from Jan. 23 - 30.

"The most important determinant of survival from sudden cardiac arrest [SCA] is the presence of a trained rescuer who is ready, willing, able, and equipped to act," the guidelines note. "Any improvements resulting from advanced life support therapies are less substantial than the increases in survival rate reported from successful deployment of lay rescuer CPR and automated external defibrillation (AED) programs in the community."

The objective of these revised recommendations is to improve survival from SCA and acute, life-threatening cardiopulmonary problems. Compared with previous guidelines, the 2005 guidelines are based on the most extensive evidence review of CPR yet published; they were developed using a new structured and transparent process for ongoing disclosure and management of potential conflicts of interest, and they have been streamlined to reduce the amount of information that rescuers need to learn and remember and to clarify the most important skills that rescuers need to perform.

The evidence evaluation process underlying these guidelines relied on the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR), which was formed to systematically review resuscitation science and develop an evidence-based consensus to guide resuscitation practice worldwide. The 6 task forces of ILCOR include basic life support, advanced life support, acute coronary syndromes, pediatric life support, neonatal life support, and an interdisciplinary task force to address overlapping topics. The AHA added 2 more task forces on stroke and first aid.

Based on available evidence, the AHA classified its recommendations as class I (high-level prospective studies support the action or therapy, and the risk substantially outweighs the potential for harm); class IIa (the weight of evidence supports the action or therapy, and the therapy is considered acceptable and useful); and class IIb (the evidence documents only short-term benefits from the therapy, or positive results were documented with lower levels of evidence).

"The 12 AHA CPR and ECC algorithms contained in these guidelines highlight essential assessments and interventions recommended to treat cardiac arrest or a life-threatening condition," the authors write. "These algorithms have been developed using a template with specific box shapes and colors. Memorizing the box colors and shapes is not recommended, nor is it necessary for use of the algorithms."

The most significant changes in the guidelines attempt to simplify CPR instruction, to increase the number of chest compressions delivered per minute, and to reduce interruptions in chest compressions during CPR. Some of the most significant new recommendations are as follows:

  • The lay rescuer no longer needs to assess signs of circulation before beginning chest compressions but should instead be taught to deliver 2 rescue breaths to the unresponsive victim who is not breathing and to then begin chest compressions immediately.

  • Instructions for rescue breaths are simplified: all breaths, whether delivered mouth-to-mouth, mouth-to-mask, bag-mask, or bag-to–advanced airway, should be given over 1 second with sufficient volume to achieve visible chest rise.

  • The lay rescuer no longer needs to be trained in rescue breathing without chest compressions.

  • A single (universal) compression-to-ventilation ratio of 30:2 is recommended for single rescuers of victims of all ages, except for newborn infants. This recommendation should simplify teaching and provide longer periods of uninterrupted chest compressions.

  • For application of pediatric basic life support guidelines for healthcare providers, the definition of "pediatric victim" is modified to preadolescent (prepubescent) victim. However, there is no change to the lay rescuer application of child CPR guidelines (1 to 8 years).

  • The importance of chest compressions is emphasized. Rescuers will be taught to "push hard, push fast" (at 100 compressions per minute), to allow complete chest recoil, and to minimize interruptions in chest compressions.

  • For unwitnessed arrest, Emergency Medical Services providers may consider provision of about 5 cycles (or about 2 minutes) of CPR before defibrillation, particularly when the interval from the call to the Emergency Medical Services dispatcher to response at the scene is more than 4 to 5 minutes.

  • During treatment of pulseless arrest, about 5 cycles (or about 2 minutes) of CPR should be provided between rhythm checks. Instead of checking the rhythm or a pulse immediately after shock delivery, rescuers should immediately resume CPR, beginning with chest compressions, and they should check the rhythm after 5 cycles (or about 2 minutes) of CPR.

  • All rescue efforts, including insertion of an advanced airway, administration of medications, and reassessment of the patient should be performed in a manner that minimizes interruption of chest compressions. Pulse checks should be limited during the treatment of pulseless arrest.

  • For treatment of ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, there should be only 1 shock, instead of 3 stacked shocks, followed immediately by CPR (beginning with chest compressions). This change is based on the high first-shock success rate of new defibrillators and the knowledge that if the first shock fails, intervening chest compressions may improve oxygen and glucose delivery to the myocardium, making the subsequent shock more likely to result in defibrillation.

  • For resuscitation of the newborn infant, there is greater emphasis on the importance of ventilation and less emphasis on the importance of using high concentrations of oxygen.

  • The guidelines reaffirm that intravenous administration of fibrinolytics (tPA) can improve outcome in patients with acute ischemic stroke who meet the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke eligibility criteria. This should be done by physicians following a clearly defined protocol, as part of a knowledgeable team, and at an institution committed to stroke care.

  • The guidelines include new first aid recommendations.

"The recommendations in the 2005 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC confirm the safety and effectiveness of many approaches, acknowledge that other approaches may not be optimal, and recommend new treatments that have undergone evidence evaluation," the authors write. "These new recommendations do not imply that care involving the use of earlier guidelines is unsafe. In addition, it is important to note that these guidelines will not apply to all rescuers and all victims in all situations."

Future directions recommended by the guideline authors include improvement of lay rescuer education and continuous quality improvement of resuscitation programs.

In an accompanying editorial, Mary Fran Hazinski, RN, MSN, and colleagues note that there was unanimous support for ensuring that rescuers deliver high-quality CPR, even though high-level evidence is insufficient to support many recommendations.

"Although researchers continue to try to identify therapies that may improve short-term outcomes, the goal of resuscitation research remains the identification of interventions that improve neurologically intact survival to hospital discharge following cardiac arrest," the editorialists write. "A striking finding of the 2005 Consensus Conference was the contrast of data that showed the critical role of early, high-quality CPR in increasing rates of survival from cardiac arrest with data that showed that few victims of cardiac arrest receive CPR, and even fewer receive high-quality CPR."

The editorial summarizes several key changes in resuscitation skills and sequences recommended by the new guidelines, often based on consensus opinion and bolstered by laboratory, clinical, and educational research and outcome data rather than by level 1 evidence.

"Simply put: rescuers should push hard, push fast, allow full chest recoil, minimize interruptions in compressions, and defibrillate promptly when appropriate," the editorialists conclude. "In the final analysis, the most important determinant of survival from sudden cardiac arrest is the presence of a rescuer who is trained, willing, able, and equipped to act in an emergency. Our greatest challenge and highest priority is the training of lay rescuers and healthcare providers in simple, high-quality CPR skills that can be easily taught, remembered, and implemented to save lives."

Circulation. Posted online Nov. 28, 2005.

  • Print