Chest compressions first just as effective as immediate defibrillation

But in cases of long emergency response time, chest compressions first may be best approach

Chest compressions before defibrillation in patients with sudden cardiac arrest is equally successful as immediate treatment with an electrical defibrillator, according to a new study by the University of Michigan Health System.

Few people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital survive. There's an urgent need to find ways to save lives of those whose heart has suddenly stopped beating.

U-M physicians, along with a team of international experts, examined two promising rescue strategies: chest compressions first vs. defibrillation first.

Their results, published online Thursday in BMC Journal, show that both timing strategies are effective, yet chest compressions before defibrillation may be best in events where emergency response times are longer than five minutes.

''Current evidence does not support the notion that chest compressions first prior to defibrillation improves the outcome of patients in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest; instead it appears that both treatments are equivalent,'' says lead study author Pascal Meier, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at the U-M Cardiovascular Center.