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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation on television: are we miseducating the public?
  1. Michael Colwill1,
  2. Charlotte Somerville2,
  3. Eric Lindberg3,
  4. Caroline Williams4,
  5. James Bryan4,
  6. Ted Welman3,5
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Epsom and St Helier University Hospital Trust, Carshalton, UK
  2. 2Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Heartlands Hospital, Bordesley Green East, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3Departments of Surgery and Anaesthesia, Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust, Chertsey, Surrey, UK
  4. 4Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, Charing Cross Hospital, London, UK
  5. 5Department of Emergency Medicine, St George’s Hospital University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ted Welman, St George’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Tooting SW17 0QT, UK; tedwelman{at}


Background Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates in the UK are poor, and non-medically trained individuals have been identified to perform substandard cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Millions watch televised medical dramas and, for many, these comprise their only education on CPR. This study aims to investigate the quality of CPR portrayed on these programmes and whether this has an effect on public knowledge.

Methods Prospective observational study of 30 consecutive episodes of three popular medical dramas. Public knowledge of CPR and viewing habits were assessed with a survey of non-medically trained personnel.

Results 90 episodes were reviewed with 39 resuscitation attempts shown. Chest compression rates varied from 60 to 204 compressions per minute with a median of 122 (95% CI 113 to 132). Depth varied from 1.5 to 7.5 cm with a median of 3 (3.15–4.31). Rate and depth were significantly different from the UK Resuscitation Council Guidelines (2010) (p<0.05, t-test). Survey participants (n=160, 80% response rate) documented what they thought was the correct rate and depth of chest compressions and were scored accordingly. Those who documented watching medical dramas regularly scored significantly worse than those who watched occasionally (p<0.05, Mann-Whitney test).

Conclusion Televised medical dramas depict CPR inaccurately and laypersons may be less well informed about the correct technique the more they tune into these programmes. While there may be other confounding variables, given the popularity of television medical dramas, the poor depiction may be significantly contributing to poor public CPR knowledge and represent a potential new avenue of public education.

  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • resuscitation quality
  • medical drama
  • television
  • media

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  • Presented at the RCEM Annual Scientific Conference (Bournemouth, UK), September 2016.

  • Contributors All authors contributed to the design of the study. EL, CS and TW selected the questions for the survey. MC, CW and JB collected the study data. EL and TW tested the validity of the results. TW wrote the first draft of the manuscript and is the guarantor for the study. All authors critically revised the final manuscript, have approved the final version and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.