Young teens often capable of performing CPR

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many 13-year-old children have the physical strength to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and even 9-year-olds can begin to learn CPR, according to a new study.

British researchers found that 45 percent of 13- to 14-year-olds in their study were able to deliver CPR chest compressions to the proper. While no 9- or 10-year-old in the study had the strength for proper chest compressions, they were often able to learn the basics of CPR, like the correct hand positioning for compressions.

Children could learn CPR in stages over several years, the study authors suggest in the online edition of the British Medical Journal; kids could first learn to recognize when others need emergency help, and how to summon an ambulance.

“The more often CPR skills are taught, the better they are retained,” explained Michael Colquhoun, a senior lecturer in prehospital care at Cardiff University and a co-author of the study.

“So in theory,” he told Reuters Health, “starting earlier should allow for more repetition, and thereby make the skills easier to learn when children are sufficiently developed to perform effective compressions.”

For their study, Colquhoun and his colleagues gave 157 schoolchildren, ages 9 to 14, a 20-minute lesson in basic CPR. They then tested the children’s ability to perform chest compressions on an adult-size mannequin.

The researchers found that while the depth of the chest compressions was significantly better among the 13- and 14-year-olds, the younger children performed as well on other measures of CPR ability. Many were able to find the correct hand positioning on the chest, and they performed the compressions at the same rate as the oldest children.

Even if, after CPR training, a child were not physically able to perform chest compressions in a real-life emergency, he or she could guide an adult in how to do it, Colquhoun noted.

There is widespread agreement among experts in emergency medicine that all children should learn CPR at some point, according to the researcher. However, he noted, the UK national school curriculum does not require CPR training, so not all children learn it.

SOURCE: BMJ Online First, April 27, 2007.