Can Community First Responders reverse Cardiac arrests?

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is a major cause of death. It occurs when a person’s heart stops pumping blood around the body. It is most often caused by an abnormal heart rhythm. Cardiac arrest causes death within minutes unless this rhythm restarts.

Defibrillator is a safe, portable and affordable device. It can reverse (’defibrillate’) the abnormal rhythm causing cardiac arrest. This restarts the heart. Almost anyone can use defibrillator, even without training. But it must happen within minutes of cardiac arrest occurring.

A bystander can compress and release a cardiac arrest casualty’s chest with their hands. It helps pumping blood around the body. This is the cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) a technique. CPR can keep a cardiac arrest casualty alive until a defibrillator arrives. But again, it’s only effective if started very soon after cardiac arrest occurs. CPR and defibrillation are the most important interventions following cardiac arrest.

Community first responders

Even the best ambulance services struggle to reach cardiac arrests in time. If they arrive on time, they can save life by providing CPR and defibrillation. Healthcare systems hasten to give persons suffering cardiac arrests CPR and defibrillation. That’s why they have started to use community first responders (CFRs) to give these treatments.

CFRs are fellow citizens who live in the community and have a  basic training in CPR or defibrillator use. CFRs are generally alerted to cardiac arrest by the ambulance service. Can dispatching CFRs save more people suffering cardiac arrests? Our review asked.

Dr Barry’s team searched electronic data bases in February 2018. The team found 2 studies with a total of 1,136 patients. One study found that sending CFRs increased the rates of CPR. This was  before the ambulance arrival. The other study found the same effect for defibrillation.

Neither study was able to show that dispatching CFRs saved more lives. We need more research on the effect of dispatching CFRs and cardiac arrest survival.  Text taken from Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (

Cited study:

Barry T, Doheny MC, Masterson S, Conroy N, Klimas J, Segurado R, Codd M, Bury G. Community first responders for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews  2019, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD012764. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012764.pub2.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you can also read the post about the initial Protocol for the review from two years ago link here

Community first responders for out of hospital cardiac arrest