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Advanced cardiac life support

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Advanced cardiac life support

Advanced cardiac life support or advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) refers to a set of clinical interventions for the urgent treatment of cardiac arrest, stroke and other life-threatening medical emergencies, as well as the knowledge and skills to deploy those interventions.[1] In the UK, a parallel protocol (advanced life support) is used.


Only qualified health care providers can provide ACLS, as it requires the ability to manage the patient's airway, initiate IV access, read and interpret electrocardiograms, and understand emergency pharmacology; these include physicians (MDs and DOs, pharmacists (PharmDs), dentists (DDS and DMDs), advanced practice providers (PAs and NPs), respiratory therapists (RTs), nurses (RNs), paramedics (EMT-Ps) and advanced emergency medical technicians (AEMTs). Other emergency responders may also be trained.

Some health professionals, or even lay rescuers, may be trained in [2] When a sudden cardiac arrest occurs, immediate CPR is a vital link in the chain of survival. Another important link is early defibrillation, which has improved greatly with the widespread availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs).

Electrocardiogram interpretation

ACLS often starts with analyzing the patient's heart rhythms with a manual defibrillator. In contrast to an AED in BLS, where the machine decides when and how to shock a patient, the ACLS team leader makes those decisions based on rhythms on the monitor and patient's vital signs. The next steps in ACLS are insertion of intravenous (IV) lines and placement of various airway devices. Commonly used ACLS drugs, such as epinephrine and amiodarone, are then administered.[3] The ACLS personnel quickly search for possible reversible causes of cardiac arrest (i.e. the H's and T's, heart attack). Based on their diagnosis, more specific treatments are given. These treatments may be medical such as IV injection of an antidote for drug overdose, or surgical such as insertion of a chest tube for those with tension pneumothoraces or hemothoraces.


The American Heart Association and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation performs a science review every five years and publishes an updated set of recommendations and educational materials. Following are recent changes.

2010 guidelines

The ACLS guidelines were updated by the [2] Foci also include end tidal CO
monitoring as a measure of CPR effectiveness, and as a measure of ROSC. Other changes include the exclusion of atropine administration for pulseless electrical activity (PEA) and asystole. CPR (for ACLS and BLS) was reordered from "ABC" to "CAB" (circulation, airway, breathing) to bring focus to chest compressions, even recommending compression-only CPR for laypersons. (note, however, that in pediatric resuscitation, respiratory arrest is more likely to be the main cause of arrest than adults.[6])

2005 guidelines

The 2005 guidelines acknowledged that high quality chest compressions and early defibrillation are the key to positive outcomes while other "typical ACLS therapies ... "have not been shown to increase rate of survival to hospital discharge".[7] In 2004 a study found that the basic interventions of CPR and early defibrillation and not the advanced support improved survival from cardiac arrest.[8]

The 2005 guidelines were published in Circulation.[9] The major source for ACLS courses and textbooks in the United States is the American Heart Association; in Europe, it is the European Resuscitation Council (ERC). Most institutions expect their staff to recertify at least every two years. Many sites offer training in simulation labs with simulated code situations with a dummy. Other hospitals accept software-based courses for recertification. An ACLS Provider Manual reflecting the new Guidelines is now available.

Stroke is also included in the ACLS course with emphasis on the stroke chain of survival.[10]


The current ACLS guidelines are set into several groups of "algorithms" - a set of instructions that are followed to standardize treatment, and increase its effectiveness. These algorithms usually come in the form of a flowchart, incorporating 'yes/no' type decisions, making the algorithm easier to memorize.

Types of algorithms

Cardiac Arrest Algorithm
Acute Coronary Syndromes Algorithm
PEA/Asystole Algorithm
VF/Pulseless VT Algorithm
Bradycardia Algorithm
Tachycardia Algorithms
Suspected Stroke Algorithm

Using the algorithm


The ACLS guidelines were first published in 1974 by the American Heart Association and were updated in 1980, 1986, 1992, 2000, 2005, and 2010.[15]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Berg RA, Hemphill R, Abella BS, Aufderheide TP, Cave DM, Hazinski MF, Lerner EB, Rea TD, Sayre MR, Swor RA. "Part 5: Adult basic life support: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care" Circulation 2010;122(suppl 3):S685–S705.
  3. ^ NeumarRW, Otto CW, Link MS, Kronick SL, Shuster M, Callaway CW, Kudenchuk PJ, OrnatoJP, McNally B, Silvers SM, Passman RS, White RD, Hess EP, Tang W, Davis D, SinzE, Morrison LJ. "Part 8: adult advanced cardiovascular life support: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care" Circulation 2010; 122(suppl 3) S729–S767.
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hallstrom A, Cobb L, Johnson E, Copass M. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation by chest compression alone or with mouth to mouth ventilation N Engl J Med. 2000;342:1546-1553
  7. ^ 2005 American Heart Association Guidelines, p. IV-58 Part 7.2: Management of Cardiac Arrest
  8. ^
  9. ^ 2005 American Heart Association Guidelines, p. IV-58
  10. ^ Jauch EC, Cucchiara B, Adeoye O, Meurer W, Brice J, Chan Y-F, Gentile N, Hazinski MF. "Part 11: adult stroke: 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care" Circulation 2010;122(suppl 3):S818–S828.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^

External links

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