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Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) Provider Handbook is based on the 2015-2020 Advanced Cardiac Life Support guidelines published by the American Heart Association. It is a comprehensive resource intended for health care professionals currently enrolled in an Advanced Cardiac Life Support Certification or Recertification Course. It serves as the primary training material for ACLS Certification and Recertification courses. Although it is primarily intended for use during their courses, the handbook was also created to serve as daily reference material for health care professionals. Information covered in the handbook includes ACLS instruction for adults and children through multiple case scenarios. Case scenarios include, but are not limited to, respiratory arrest, ventricular fibrillation and bradycardia. Specific ACLS Algorithms and more are also included within the handbook. All material included in this handbook is delivered in a manner meant to enhance learning in the most comprehensive and convenient way possible.
The goal of Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) is to achieve the best possible outcome for individuals who are experiencing a life-threatening event. ACLS is a series of evidence based responses simple enough to be committed to memory and recalled under moments of stress. These ACLS protocols have been developed through research, patient case studies, clinical studies, and opinions of experts in the field. The gold standard in the United States and other countries is the course curriculum published by the American Heart Association (AHA).
The heart pumps blood through the lungs, where blood takes in oxygen and releases carbon dioxide. This blood then returns to the heart where it is pumped out to vital organs--the heart and brain--as well as the rest of the body. When the heart stops, blood flow stops, and the person quickly becomes unconscious. Without blood flow, the heart and the brain quickly become damaged due to lack of oxygen. The actions that make up BLS try to prevent or slow the damage until the cause of the problem can be corrected. BLS improves a person's chance of surviving until advanced care becomes available.
Previously, the AHA released periodic updates to their Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) guidelines on a five year cycle, with the most recent update published in 2015. Moving forward, the AHA will no longer wait five years between updates; instead, it will maintain the most up-to-date recommendations online at ECCguidelines.heart.org. Health care providers are recommended to supplement the materials presented in this handbook with the guidelines published by the AHA and refer to the most current interventions and rationales throughout their study of ACLS.
While ACLS providers should always be mindful of timeliness, it is important to provide the intervention that most appropriately fits the needs of the individual. Proper utilization of ACLS requires rapid and accurate assessment of the individual's condition. This not only applies to the provider's initial assessment of an individual in distress, but also to the reassessment throughout the course of treatment with ACLS.
ACLS protocols assume that the provider may not have all of the information needed from the individual or all of the resources needed to properly use ACLS in all cases. For example, if a provider is utilizing ACLS on the side of the road, they will not have access to sophisticated devices to measure breathing or arterial blood pressure. Nevertheless, in such situations, ACLS providers have the framework to provide the best possible care in the given circumstances. ACLS algorithms are based on past performances and result in similar life-threatening cases and are intended to achieve the best possible outcome for the individual during emergencies. The foundation of all algorithms involves the systematic approach of the BLS Survey and the ACLS Survey (using steps ABCD) that you will find later in this handbook.