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Technical Report

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Academic Emergency Medicine





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Background: The current standard for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) retraining for laypersons is a four‐hour course every two years. Others have documented substantial skill deterioration during this time period.

Objectives: To evaluate 1) the retention of core CPR and AED skills among volunteer laypersons and 2) the time required to retrain laypersons to proficiency as a function of time since initial training.

Methods: This was an observational follow‐up study evaluating CPR and AED skill retention and testing/retraining time up through 17 months after initial training. The study took place at 1,260 facilities recruited by 24 North American clinical research centers, and included 6,182 volunteer laypersons participating in the Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) Trial. Training to proficiency in either CPR only (N= 2,426) or CPR+AED (N= 3,756) was followed by testing/retraining provided three to 17 months later. Retraining was done in brief, one‐on‐one, individualized, interactive sessions. The outcome studied was instructors' global assessments of performance of CPR and AED skill adequacy, i.e., whether CPR actions would likely result in perfusion (yes/no) and whether AED actions would result in a shock through the heart (yes/no).

Results: For global CPR performance, 79%, 73%, and 71% of volunteers tested for the first time since initial training three to five, six to 11, and 12 to 17 months after initial training, respectively, were judged by their instructors as having adequate performance (p < 0.001, chi‐square for linear trend). For global AED performance, 91%, 86%, and 84% of volunteers, respectively, were judged as having adequate performance (p < 0.001). The mean (± standard deviation) times required to test and retrain volunteers to proficiency were 5.7 (± 4.0) minutes for CPR skills and 7.7 (± 4.6) minutes for CPR+AED skills.

Conclusions: Among PAD Trial volunteer laypersons participating in a simulated resuscitation, the proportions of volunteers judged by instructors to have adequate CPR and AED skills demonstrated small declines associated with longer intervals between initial training and subsequent testing. However, based on instructors' judgment, large majorities of volunteers still retained both CPR and AED core skills through 17 months after initial training. Furthermore, individual testing and retraining for CPR and AED skills were usually accomplished in less than 10 minutes per volunteer. Additional research is essential to identify training and evaluation techniques that predict adequate CPR and AED skill performance of laypersons when applied to an actual cardiac arrest.

Copyright/Permission Statement

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: [Riegel et al, How Well are Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillator Skills Retained Over Time? Results from the Public Access Defibrillation (PAD) Trial. Academic Emergency Medicine 13, no. 3: 254-263], which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.


cardiopulmonary resuscitation, automated external defibrillators, skill retention, public-access defibrillation, cardiac arrest, bystander CPR, laypersons, training



Date Posted: 02 November 2018

This document has been peer reviewed.