CPR compression depth and rate in relation to physical exertion in paramedic students

The International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) guidelines suggest rescuers deliver cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in cycles of 30 chest compressions and 2 ventilations (30:2) at a rate of 100 compressions per minute with a compression depth of 4-5 cm. Given this increase from the previous CPR cycle of 15:2, there is now also greater emphasis on pushing faster and deeper with minimal interruption. This has led to speculation surrounding rescuer fatigue and compression inefficiency. The purpose of this pilot study was to assess the level of work intensity and fatigue among undergraduate students during simulated CPR, including the quality of chest compressions. Methods: this was an observational pilot study investigating second year undergraduate paramedic students’ fatigue levels and quality of chest compressions following 20 minutes of simulated CPR. Data were collected at baseline and after every 2 minutes until conclusion of twenty minutes. Measurements of work intensity and fatigue included heart rate, rating of perceived exertion (Borg), compression depth and compression frequency. Results: a total of 7 subjects participated (2 male, 5 female), with five students aged 21-25 years. Male subjects showed a significantly slower compression rate when compared to females (108.0 vs 125.6 chest compressions per minute, P=0.006). Heart rate was significantly higher than rest (prior to commencing CPR) after 14 minutes of CPR (P=0.045). Perceived exertion was significantly higher than at rest at 2, 6, 10, 14, and 18 minutes, (P<0.01). Conclusion: this pilot study suggests that high levels of fatigue and perceived exertion are present early when undertaking CPR in a controlled setting, with some fatigue attributed to the faster than recommended chest compression rates.

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