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CPR is nowhere near as effective as it is depicted on TV shows

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Posted August 31, 2015

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, commonly known as CPR, is probably one of the most well-known medical procedures in the world. We all have seen it on TV, had to learn it in school and some of us probably had to witness it being performed or even had to do it ourselves. However, in such popular medical dramas like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” CPR procedure is much more effective than it is in reality as a new study from the University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology have recently uncovered.

CPR is one of those procedures that most of us know from previous experiences in training or TV shows. Procedure itself can really save lives and does it quite often. However, nowhere near as effectively as is depicted on popular TV shows, which sometimes leads to poorly based healthcare decisions. Image credit: Rama via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

CPR is one of those procedures that most of us know from previous experiences in training or TV shows. Procedure itself can really save lives and does it quite often. However, nowhere near as effectively as is depicted on popular TV shows, which sometimes leads to poorly based healthcare decisions. Image credit: Rama via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

It turns out, that popular TV shows create false hopes about effectiveness of CPR procedure. Researchers found that on these TV programs CPR is effective in nearly 70% of the scenes in which it was depicted. Furthermore, about half of the patients in these TV dramas made enough of a recovery to eventually leave the hospital. Scientists say that these numbers are far from what is happening in real life. The real survival rate after immediate CPR procedure is only 37% and the real long-term survival rate is just roughly 13%. And this is not just inaccuracy – TV shows never promised to be completely scientifically accurate. But scientists say that this leads to people making medical care decisions for themselves and family members based on inaccurate assumptions.

The researchers analysed episodes of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” that aired during 2010 and 2011. They found 46 separate depictions of CPR, including both chest compressions and defibrillation. Researchers noted down all important data, such as whether the patients lived or died, the cause of cardiac arrest and apparent backgrounds and ages of those receiving CPR if this information is attainable from the show episode.

Not only survival rates appear to be inaccurate. In TV shows most of CPR’s are performed on people in the age gap of 18-65 years old. In reality, as researchers note, more than 60% of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is done to people who are over 65 years old. Furthermore, cause of the cardiac arrest is also far from accurate. In TV shows about 40% of the cases it is trauma. However, in reality, only about 2% of CPR procedures are performed on people with traumatic injuries.

In fact, such trend is not entirely new. Similar study was conducted back in 1996 and it appears that since then accuracy rates of television CPR depictions are not improving at all. Scientists are quick to mention that although we may think of these TV shows are harmless entertainment, widespread inaccuracies like these may have some real-life consequences.

Shockingly, nearly 42% of older adults admit that most of their health knowledge comes from TV. A lot of them make their healthcare choices and choose treatments on this knowledge they get on inaccurate data, which may have some very dark consequences. Inaccurate depiction of CPR procedure create false ideas about how survivable a heart attack is and some people may not take necessary precautions to take care of their hearts.

Furthermore, scientists note that even in such life-threatening situations in TV shows it is rarely a case that family members discuss care preferences and end-of-life choices with their doctors. In fact, in all 91 episodes analysed, only five patients or their family members were shown discussing care preferences. While in real time such discussion is always necessary, especially in situations when life is threatened.

Jaclyn Portanova, first author of the study, noted: “the findings from this study emphasize the need for improved physician-patient communication and discussions around advance care planning decisions, such as CPR. Without these discussions, patients may rely on misinformation from TV in their decision-making.”

It is a very interesting study that shows how important it is to be aware of fictional nature of TV shows. As personalities, relationships, skills are not real, technologies, statistics and procedures may not be real again. Real doctors do much better job taking care of our health and false promises we see on TV should not lead us to making one of the other decision about our health.

Source: usc.edu

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