A study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that the US has the world’s highest gun violence. The US government is doing everything possible to implement many restrictions on gun policies, but accidents do and will continue to happen.
Cardiac arrest can also happen as a result of physically inflicted trauma like a firearm wound. Knowing CPR in those situations can increase the victim’s survival odds before the first responders and paramedics arrive at the scene.
As a bystander, you can only call for help and try to keep the victim breathing while the medical personnel arrives. So, knowing how to use life-saving techniques like CPR can be critical in saving someone’s life. But can you perform CPR on a gunshot victim? Read our article to find out!
What Is CPR?
CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a life-saving method that is applied when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. The state where a person’s heart has stopped pumping is called cardiac arrest. This state is commonly caused by a malfunctioning heart, causing it to beat unevenly or entirely stop beating. Cardiac arrest can also happen due to some types of arrhythmias or physical trauma.
A person having a cardiac arrest has the following symptoms:
- Passes out and loses consciousness
- Is not breathing, or their airway is blocked, and they are gasping for air
- Does not respond when addressed
- Does not have a pulse or has a feeble one
When a cardiac arrest happens, the heart cannot pump enough blood to maintain circulation in the body. If the heart does not provide enough blood to the organs, they will stop functioning. This leads to a serious life-threatening situation where death can occur in just a few minutes. That is where CPR can help.
The CPR technique utilizes chest compressions which can copy the heart-pumping action. Chest compressions are applied by pressing down on the chest, providing the heart to pump more blood and oxygen to vital organs. The CPR methods can help revive a person who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating, regaining the body’s circulation and blood flow.
How To Perform CPR On a GunShot Victim
Nowadays, many people take CPR classes because of personal choice. There are even employers that encourage their employees to learn CPR techniques since accidents can happen anywhere.
As a bystander in a medical emergency, the best way to help someone is to call for help and proceed with a medical intervention using CPR. While you wait for the emergency response from trained professionals, every minute can count. Administering simple CPR can help keep the victim alive.
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to help a gunshot victim, There is more to do than just administer CPR. Other interventions include locating the wound and source of bleeding and stopping the hemorrhage. Being trained in first aid can come in handy here.
Here is a straightforward guide on properly administering CPR to a gunshot victim.
Secure the scene
- Check if the scene is safe. This is a must because you wouldn’t want to endanger your life.
- Immediately call the emergency response team for assistance.
- If the victim has a firearm, move it far from you and the victim for safety.
Attend to the Victim
- Keep the victim still, do not move their body.
- Check to see if the person is responsive and conscious, check their pulse, and check if they are breathing.
- Find the source of the bleeding and address it to stop the bleeding.
- If the victim is unresponsive, has no pulse, and is not breathing, start CPR immediately!
- Find a secure place and place the person on a flat surface on their back.
- Check the airway to make sure it’s not blocked.
- Place both hands on the person’s chest and administer 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute.
- The compressions should be about 2 inches deep.
- Lift the chin and tilt their head allowing the airway to open.
- Deliver rescue breaths by shutting their nose and blowing into their mouth. Deliver two slow and steady rescue breaths.
- Continue applying sets of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths until the victim starts to respond or the emergency response team arrives.
- If necessary, use an AED, or ask someone to bring you one, but do not leave the victim.
Possible Risks Of Performing CPR On a Gunshot Victim
A gunshot injury is any injury caused by a bullet from a firearm. Gunshot injuries can lead to death in minutes, depending on where the wound is and its damage to the body. The injury can manifest in bleeding, leading to severe consequences such as hemorrhage, damaging tissues and organs, infection, and paralysis.
Depending on the severity of the wound, the victim may lose consciousness, have a feeble pulse, or stop breathing. When this happens, CPR can be vital to keep the victim alive before medical assistance is provided. However, complications can arise when administering CPR on the firearm victim. For example, if the victim’s wound constantly bleeds, CPR can make the bleeding even faster and increase the person’s blood loss.
Another scenario is when a gunshot victim has rib fractures, a damaged organ, or a spinal injury. Due to the force and shock of the bullet, there can be additional injuries, such as severe bruising or broken bones. When the CPR giver delivers chest compressions, they may cause bigger damage and bleeding.
Another potential risk that can result from administering CPR is the possibility of contracting an infection. Giving CPR to a stranger means we are unaware of any contagious infections we can come in contact with by administering CPR. This usually happens when we come in contact with the victim’s bodily fluids, which is why using gloves, eye protection, and masks is advisable.
A bullet, fragments from a bullet, or shrapnel from an exploded bullet can lead to an injury. We want to prevent bullet fragments from traveling through the body of the victim. Bullet fragments can migrate through the body when doing chest compressions.
Every firearm victim will need fast transport to the hospital due to the severity of the injury. However, while waiting for medical assistance, if the victim does not breathe or has no pulse, administering CPR can mean survival till the paramedics arrive.
When the victim is transferred to a hospital, medical personnel will determine the damage to the victim’s body and perform surgery to remove the bullet or treat the secondary injuries caused by the bullet trauma.
Advantages of Using CPR On a Gunshot Victim
We know that CPR can mean the difference between staying alive and dying. It’s well-known that administering CPR in the first moments of an accident can increase the chances of survival. There is no written rule saying CPR cannot be performed on gunshot victims, but it has to be done with caution.
One of the main advantages of administering CPR to a gunshot victim is emotional support. Considering the seriousness of the situation, both the victim and their family would feel better knowing someone is there to help them. Helping a victim during these stressful situations can make a difference.
A study on victims with brain gunshot wounds has uncertain results regarding which victims benefited from receiving CPR and which did not. From 825 case studies, 67% underwent CPR outside the hospital, and only 2.1% survived to discharge. Even if the victims didn’t survive, using CPR helped to preserve their organs for organ donation.
One of the many benefits is that CPR can help reduce the risk of brain damage by providing oxygen to the body. It also helps to buy the victim some time until the emergency response teams arrive. This can be especially important in cases of internal bleeding, where timely medical intervention is essential.
CPR can help to re-establish cardiac output in a gunshot victim, which can help to restore vital organ function.
Many will say that giving a gunshot victim CPR will not help but may even worsen the state. And although this may be true depending on the seriousness of the situation, just being there may save a life. This is why getting CPR certified is advisable. You will learn to distinguish what you need to do in these situations.
Many case studies generally acknowledge and prove that CPR is a life-saving technique. It is a good skill that can help in various situations which may occur unexpectedly and save a life.
Nowadays, many people are taking CPR classes not just for cardiac arrest or heart attack situations but for situations with airway blockage.
When it comes to gunshot victims, CPR should be used depending on the circumstances. Trained CPR bystanders will know how to react and which techniques to use in a given situation.