COVID-19-specific adult basic life support guideline strategies for chiropractors and other healthcare providers to maximize the safety and efficacy of resuscitation: a commentary
Chiropractic & Manual Therapies volume 31, Article number: 16 (2023)
The emergence of an unprecedented novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-C0V-2), which causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, has created new scenarios in basic life support (BLS) management. According to current evidence, SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted airborne in aerosol particles during resuscitation. Research evidence found an alarming global increase in out-of-hospital cardiac arrests during the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare providers are legally obliged to respond to cardiac arrest as soon as possible. Chiropractors will likely encounter potential exercise-related and non-exercise-related cardiac emergencies at some point in their professional lives. They have a duty of care to respond to emergencies such as cardiac arrest. Chiropractors are increasingly involved in providing care, including emergency care, for athletes and spectators at sporting events. Also, exercise-related cardiac arrest in adult patients may occur during exercise testing or rehabilitation with exercise prescriptions in chiropractic and other healthcare settings. Little is known about the COVID-19 BLS guidelines for chiropractors. Knowledge of the current COVID-19-specific adult BLS guidelines is essential to developing an emergency response plan for the on-field and sideline management of exercise-related cardiac arrest and non-athletic, non-exercise-related cardiac arrest.
Seven peer-reviewed articles on the COVID-19-specific BLS guidelines, including two updates, were reviewed for this commentary. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national and international resuscitation organizations recommended interim COVID-19-specific BLS guidelines with precaution, resuscitation, and education strategies. BLS safety is paramount. A precautionary approach with the bare minimum of appropriate personal protective equipment for resuscitation is recommended. There was disagreement among the COVID-19 BLS guidelines on the level of personal protective equipment. All healthcare professionals should also undergo self-directed BLS e-learning and virtual skill e-training. The summarized COVID-19-specific adult BLS guideline strategies and protocols are tabled, respectively.
This commentary provides a practical overview and highlights current evidence-based intervention strategies of the COVID-19-specific adult BLS guidelines that may help chiropractors and other healthcare providers reduce BLS-related exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and maximize the efficacy of resuscitation. This study is relevant to and impacts future COVID-19-related research in areas such as infection prevention and control.
The emergence of an unprecedented novel severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-C0V-2), which causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, has created new scenarios in basic life support (BLS) management. SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted airborne in aerosol particles, according to recent evidence . According to the American Heart Association 2020 Interim COVID-19 Guidance, SARS-CoV2 is highly transmissible during resuscitation and has a high morbidity and mortality rate, complicating the emerging response to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) .
Cardiac arrest is a time-critical, life-threatening emergency requiring prompt, urgent, and appropriate interventions. The biggest challenge during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to ensure the best possible chance of survival for an OHCA patient without compromising the safety of the healthcare rescuers [2,3,4,5]. According to the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, it is important to balance the appropriateness of resuscitation against the risk of infection to manage cardiac arrest during the COVID-19 pandemic . There are risks and concerns of SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission during AGPs, including chest compressions, defibrillation, bag-valve-mask (BVM) ventilation, and positive-pressure ventilation . Considering the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of concern for SARS-CoV-2, the 2021 World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the appropriate use of a respirator for aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) along with other personal protective equipment (PPE) by healthcare providers providing care in any setting to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 .
A recent systematic review and meta-analysis found an alarming global increase in OHCA during COVID-19 . The SARS-CoV-2-induced systemic inflammation could lead to cardiovascular complications such as acute coronary syndrome and myocarditis. Little is known about the incidence of OHCA in chiropractic and other healthcare settings before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, a 5 years cross-sectional study found that 36% of general medical practice was involved in OHCA, and 13% was involved in more than one OHCA . A recent study from the Swedish Registry of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation from 2011 to 2014 and 2016 to 2018 found 635 cases of exercise-related OHCA outside of the home .
Chiropractors will likely encounter potential exercise-related and non-exercise-related cardiac emergencies at some point in their professional lives. They have a duty of care to respond to emergencies such as cardiac arrest. Like other healthcare providers, chiropractors are increasingly involved in providing care at sporting events. Because sports chiropractors can be called on to provide BLS for athletes and spectators, knowledge of the current COVID-19 BLS guidelines is essential to developing an emergency response plan for the on-field and sideline management of exercise-related cardiac arrest and non-athletic, non-exercise-related cardiac arrest. Moreover, exercise-related cardiac arrest may occur during exercise testing or rehabilitation with exercise prescriptions for patients in chiropractic clinical settings.
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the national and international resuscitation organizations recommended interim COVID-19-specific BLS guidelines [2,3,4,5, 10,11,12] with precaution, resuscitation, and education strategies based on expert opinion and consensus. Little is known about the COVID-19 BLS guidelines for chiropractors. This commentary will discuss the current evidence of CPR-associated SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the COVID-19-specific adult BLS guidelines for chiropractors and other healthcare providers, with guideline strategies in Table 1 and guideline protocols in Table 2, respectively.
Current evidence of CPR-associated SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission
There is increasing evidence of the possible risk of CPR-associated SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission. A recent systematic review found indirect evidence that CPR was associated with aerosol generation and the transmission of infection but was unsure whether chest compression or defibrillation caused bioaerosols or the transmission of COVID-19 to rescuers . Another systematic review concluded that there was sufficient growing evidence of agreement across different international guidelines to classify certain resuscitation procedures, such as intubation, CPR, and manual ventilation, as AGPs . In early 2020, the WHO categorized CPR as an AGP [15, 16]. There is insufficient evidence to suggest that chest compression is not an AGP with a risk of transmission . Bio-aerosol nuclei may remain in the air of a poorly ventilated room for a longer time. Notably, viable SARS-CoV-2 can persist in aerosols for 3 h . A recent simulation and cadaver study found that most aerosols spread in the direction of the provider during chest compression-only CPR without any airway device and that using a surgical mask or an oxygen mask as a barrier device on the patient’s face would reduce the aerosol spread . In the 2022 interim COVID-19 adult BLS update, the American Heart Association aligns with the most recent WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; it now considers CPR and all its components (e.g., chest compressions, ventilation, and defibrillation) aerosol-generating .
The COVID-19-specific adult BLS guideline strategies for chiropractors and other healthcare providers
COVID-19 resuscitation safety is paramount, and the priorities are (1) the self, (2) the colleagues and bystanders, and (3) the patient . Prehospital healthcare providers should follow the standard droplet plus aerosol precautions when resuscitating suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients [2, 3, 5, 10, 11]. In determining the appropriateness of resuscitation, it is paramount to consider the severity of the illness and the rescuer’s age and comorbidities .
There was disagreement among the COVID-19 BLS guidelines on the level of PPE. A precautionary approach with the bare minimum of appropriate PPE for AGPs is recommended to protect healthcare providers from contracting SARS-CoV-2 in suspected COVID-19 patients with BLS-associated AGPs [12, 17]. Cautiously, CPR should not be started on any patient with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 until the team is fully attired with appropriate PPE  against both airborne and droplet particles . All healthcare rescuers should use airborne-precaution PPE like a respirator of the European Union Standard filtering facepiece (FFP) 2, FFP3, or the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-certified N95 [2, 6, 10] along with other PPE (gown, gloves, and eye protection) for AGPs with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients .
In the chain of survival [20, 21], prioritizing rapid defibrillation before chest compressions [2,3,4, 10, 11] and attention to reversible causes of cardiac arrest remain the critically modified interventions  during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the early return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) may negate the need for chest compressions and ventilation, which are classified as AGPs , or the need for invasive airway management and invasive ventilation. Notably, different from other COVID-19 BLS guidelines, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation and the European Resuscitation Council suggested defibrillation before donning airborne-precaution PPE for AGPs in situations where the benefits might exceed the risks [4, 10], because of the potential for defibrillation within the first few minutes to achieve a sustained ROSC and the unlikelihood of defibrillation generating an aerosol [4, 10].
Prioritizing oxygenation and ventilation
Supplementing the chain of survival during the COVID-19 pandemic and the benefit of supplemental oxygen during CPR remain uncertain and debatable [22, 23]. However, ROSC cannot be achieved without re-oxygenating the ischemic myocardium following cardiac arrest . Hence, for agonal breathing, consider passive oxygenation overlaid with a surgical mask (if available) [5, 12] when a BVM with a high-efficiency-particulate-air filter is not being utilized [5, 12]. As a result, during chest compression-only CPR , oxygenation and ventilation should be prioritized as soon as possible . Vigilantly avoid or minimize positive-pressure ventilation by a BVM. Two rescuers should be present if required to allow a two-handed, tight seal [3, 11]. Preferably, using a BVM with a high-efficiency-particulate-air filter before chest compressions, if available, will minimize exposure to SARS-CoV-2 [5, 10,11,12].
Emphasizing the high quality of chest compression-only CPR
Chest compression is a critical component of effective CPR to perfuse vital organs during cardiac arrest. Importantly, initiate chest compressions immediately in the event of a witnessed sudden cardiac arrest, such as a possible exercise-related OHCA in chiropractic settings. If not already masked, healthcare providers should don their masks without delay or interruption with chest compressions . The COVID-19 adult BLS guidelines [3, 11] also emphasize the concept of high-quality CPR as one of the significant parts of the “chain of survival” [20, 21]. Effective, timely, high-quality manual chest compression-only CPR [3, 11] is an essential element of managing an OHCA to achieve a successful ROSC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Optimizing chest compression rate, depth, recoil, and fraction
Previous studies suggested that the quality of chest compression delivered was mainly associated with chest compression rate, depth, recoil, and fraction [20, 21, 24]. Chest compression should have the following parameters [11, 23,24,25]: chest compression rates between 100 and 120 per minute and a chest compression depth of about 5–6 cm. Chest compression rates between 100 and 120 per minute  were associated with the greatest survival following an OHCA and hospital discharge . The optimal chest compression velocity with full recoil is associated with a significant improvement in survival and a favorable neurological outcome at hospital discharge after an OHCA . A chest compression fraction (CCF) is the proportion of time spent providing chest compressions while the patient is pulseless and in cardiac arrest. Previous observational studies found that shorter pauses  or higher CCF were associated with higher odds of survival to hospital discharge for OHCA patients [29, 30]. According to the 2021 and 2022 interim COVID-19 adult BLS guidelines, maximize CCF and pause to intubate only if needed [5, 12].
Attenuating the impact of wearing PPE on the quality of manual chest compression-only CPR
The impact of wearing PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic on the quality of manual chest compression-only CPR was left unaddressed in the 2020 COVID-19 BLS guidelines [2,3,4, 10, 11], except for the updates in the 2021 and 2022 COVID-19 BLS guidelines that PPE may have accelerated rescuer fatigue, resulting in decreased CPR quality [5, 12]. Recent studies found a significant increase in adverse reactions such as PPE-induced fatigue [31,32,33,34], thermal discomfort, dizziness, and heat stress  among healthcare providers during CPR. Also, a recent systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of PPE on the effectiveness of chest compression concluded that the use of PPE compromised the quality of chest compression during CPR significantly . Cooling strategies to attenuate PPE-induced heat strain , such as wearing a cooling vest  before, during, and after CPR during the COVID-19 pandemic, should be considered, implemented, and followed.
Like other healthcare providers, infectious disease transmission during chiropractic CPR training is a common concern . The European Resuscitation Council highlighted the importance of sustaining BLS and provided interim guidelines for resuscitation education strategies to minimize the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic .
Transitioning to the COVID-19 BLS web-based e-education and e-training
Like telehealth education and training, specific web-based BLS e-education and e-training require an innovative, modified approach to the traditional training during the COVID-19 pandemic to host “tele-BLS” courses. All healthcare professionals with a duty of care to respond but rarely treat OHCA patients should also undergo self-directed BLS e-learning and virtual skill e-training , including donning and doffing PPE [11, 37]. During e-training, potential self-contamination during the doffing of used PPE [39, 40] due to mucosal exposure of the eye, nose, and mouth by touching the face with the hand(s) should be warned. Also, an appropriate proper doffing-PPE sequence should be demonstrated, practiced, and evaluated with feedback. Many web-based BLS courses and COVID-19-related infection prevention and control courses are available for healthcare providers. Samples of the free WHO web-based COVID-19-relevant courses  are:
This commentary is the first article on the current COVID-19-specific adult BLS guidelines for chiropractors to maximize the safety and efficacy of resuscitation. It has relevance and impacts future research in areas such as SARS-CoV-2 infection prevention and control strategies. It provides a practical overview and highlights the current intervention strategies of the COVID-19 interim adult BLS guidelines that may help chiropractors and other healthcare providers reduce BLS-related exposures to SARS-CoV-2 and the risks of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and maximize the efficacy of CPR. Chiropractors and other healthcare providers should follow current COVID-19-specific intervention strategies during the pandemic. Future studies should focus on evaluating the effectiveness of COVID-19-specific interventions in adult BLS guidelines, although studies to assess the effectiveness of interventions may not be ethically feasible.
Availability of data and materials
Basic life support
Chest compression fraction
Filtering face piece
Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
Personal protective equipment
Return of spontaneous circulation
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2
World Health Organization
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Woo, CC. COVID-19-specific adult basic life support guideline strategies for chiropractors and other healthcare providers to maximize the safety and efficacy of resuscitation: a commentary. Chiropr Man Therap 31, 16 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12998-023-00488-y
- Basic life support
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Aerosol transmission
- Healthcare providers