Both sexes may be equally at risk for cardiac arrest. But gender bias in CPR could have an adverse impact on the resuscitation of women.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is known as 'the kiss of life,' but the life saving technique involves more than mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing.
When someone experiences a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), not only might they stop breathing, but the heart might stop beating as well. In this case, the first course of action is to remove all clothing and perform chest compressions to immediately force oxygen-carrying blood into the brain and other vital organs.
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If needed, a rescuer might also attempt resuscitation by using an automated external defibrillator (or, AED) to shock the heart into beating. Proper placement of the AED's electrodes require the chest area to be completely free of obstacles. This includes medication patches and upper body undergarments. There is, however, empirical evidence which shows some reluctance to remove all clothing from a female patient during resuscitation efforts.
Whether the underlying reason is out of respect for the female, feelings of modesty and embarrassment, or due to some other socio-cultural inhibition regarding the female body, the end result is the same: improper CPR technique.
The Impact of Sex on CPR Simulation
Does the sex of a simulated patient affect CPR?
is a clinical paper based on a study conducted in the Healthcare Human Factors and Simulation Laboratory (HHFSL) at the W21C Research and Innovation Centre at the University of Calgary and certified by the University of Calgary's Biomedical Ethics Committee. The general purpose was to determine if CPR would be performed differently on a simulated male patient versus a female, and to explore the ramifications for women's health in light of potential gender bias.
The study found:
- rescuers were likely to remove more clothing from the male simulator
- to avoid contact with the breast area, hand placement on the female was apt to be incorrect
- there is need for standardized CPR training, regardless of patient sex
While there is room for more study, researchers were in agreement about the need to elevate training, suggesting that
... the absence of realistic female patient simulators may bias training for,
and research into, patient care ... (and) that using only male simulators will not allow trainees to experience social differences associated with the care of a female patient...
Realistic female patient simulators are needed.
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