Dr. Sarah Perman MD, M.S.C.E. Assistant professor of Emergency Medicine University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver 

Why Are Women Less Likely To Receive Bystander CPR?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Sarah Perman MD, M.S.C.E. Assistant professor of Emergency Medicine University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver 

Dr. Perman

Dr. Sarah Perman MD, M.S.C.E.
Assistant professor of Emergency Medicine
University of Colorado School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Women who suffer an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have been observed to receive less bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation (B-CPR) than men, and the potential reasons were largely unknown. We asked 54 people online to explain – with no word limit – why women might be less likely to get CPR when they collapse in public.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings? Why are women less likely to receive CPR? Are the symptoms of cardiac arrest less obvious in women? Are bystanders concerned about potential accusations of assault?

Response: After collecting the survey responses for this pilot study, our team uncovered five themes as to why women are less likely to receive CPR:

  • potentially inappropriate touching or exposure;
  • fear of being accused of sexual assault;
  • fear of causing physical injury;
  • poor recognition of women in cardiac arrest—specifically a perception that women are less likely to have heart problems, or may be overdramatizing an incident;
  • or the misconception that breasts make CPR more challenging.

When a person suffers a cardiac arrest, he or she will suddenly collapse and they are not responsive.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: These results from our pilot work indicate that the reasons for why women receive less bystander CPR than men deserve further attention. If proven in larger studies, the consequences of these findings may have a significant impact on the lives of women and their chance of a better neurologic survival after suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. While the results of our survey showcase actual fears the public holds regarding performing CPR, it is important to understand that CPR is a lifesaving tool that should be utilized regardless of gender. Every second counts during a cardiac arrest and implementing proper CPR as soon as possible could be what saves someone’s life.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: There is always more work to be done to communicate the positive impact of performing bystander CPR. Additional work using a larger national sample to confirm and expand on these findings has just been completed. Our team has expanded this survey and we plan to work with CPR training sites around the country to educate rescuers and address  fears that men and women might have about providing CPR to women.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: CPR education is critical, and I am happy to have the opportunity to work with members of the American Heart Association to distribute this message. The Association continuously works to educate individuals about the dangers of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and why people should take the time to learn Hands-Only CPR. Their newest PSA – in partnership with the Anthem Foundation – does an excellent job of communicating the importance of CPR and the positive impact bystanders can have. I stand behind the Association’s goal of increasing the bystander CPR response rate from 31% to 62% and I hope the work of my research team can contribute to achieving that goal. I encourage anyone and everyone to educate themselves and be the difference that saves a life.

Author Disclosures: S.M. Perman: B. Research Grant (includes principal investigator, collaborator, or consultant and pending grants as well as grants already received); Significant; NIH/NHLBI. S.K. Shelton: None. C. Knoepke: None. K. Rappaprt: None. D.D. Matlock: None. K. Adelgais: None. E.P. Havranek: None. S.L. Daugherty: None. 


Perman SM, et al. APS.01.09 – Bystander CPR 1.

Presented at: American Heart Association Resuscitation Science Symposium; Nov. 10-11, 2018; Chicago.

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Last Updated on December 19, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD