CPR (Cardio pulmonary resuscitation) is a well-known emergency procedure here on Earth, administered to someone whose heart has stopped beating. Chest compressions of at least 5 cm deep are given at a rate of 100 per minute to try and manually pump blood through the heart and body. Not too difficult to perform on Earth but what happens in the microgravity of Space?
On Earth we use the weight of our bodies to make the compressions – but in space our body weighs nothing! To be more precise, what we think of as our weight is actually the force with which our body is attracted towards the Earth. When in space we do not feel that gravitational attraction to the Earth and so effectively, we are weightless. Therefore, giving chest compressions depends more on the force and strength of the arms of the person providing the CPR.
Another problem in space is that everything is floating - including you and the person in need of assistance! If you try to compress the chest as you do on Earth, the force you apply will generate a reaction force in the opposite direction (Newton’s Laws of Motion) – simply put, you will float away from the person you are trying to help! To overcome this, scientists have developed some techniques to allow effective CPR to be given in space. Three of the main methods are called the Evetts-Russomano (named after yours truly!), the Handstand and the Reverse Bear Hug. These are the techniques that were evaluated in prolonged simulated microgravity by the CPR-X group and the topic of our newly published article. Congratulations to all the crew members who took part and produced another fine piece of research – well done!
(The video shows CPR-X group member Lucas Rehnberg giving CPR using the Evetts-Russomano technique. Both Lucas (the rescuer) and the manikin (the victim) are suspended as if they are weightless and floating in microgravity – the rescuer wraps their legs around the torso of the victim, locking their ankles together to give more stability and to ensure that the victim will not float away when the force of the compressions is applied.)