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Introduction To ACLS

ACLS aims to reach the best possible outcome for individuals who are going through a life-threatening event. ACLS is a set of evidence-based responses that are easy enough to be memorized in stressful moments. These ACLS guidelines and protocols have been put together through the experience of experts in the field, patient case studies, clinical studies, and years of research. The curriculum published by the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR) is the gold standard in the United States and around the world.

The ILCOR has typically released updates to its Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) guidelines every five years; these were most recently updated in 2020. However, there will no longer be a wait of five years between every update; updated recommendations will always be maintained online at The references and teachings in this handbook should be used in addition to the updated guidelines published by the ILCOR online, with the goal of referring to the most recent rationales in their practice of ACLS.

Take Note

The Basic Life Support (BLS) Provider Handbook offers a more thorough review of the BLS Survey. This handbook only partly touches on BLS, focusing instead on ACLS algorithms. Though this handbook explains the basics of BLS, ACLS providers must be knowledgeable in BLS and capable of performing BLS properly.

Providing an intervention that best fits the needs of each patient is more important than the timeliness of the treatment. To utilize ACLS properly, quick and efficient assessments must be made of the patient’s status. This applies to the initial assessment of the distressed patient as well as to the subsequent reassessments throughout the application of ACLS treatment.

A provider may not always have the entire necessary set of information for a patient to ensure proper ACLS treatment. An example would be if the provider has been forced to utilize ACLS on the side of the road, in which case they will have few to no resources such as sophisticated equipment to measure arterial blood pressure and breathing. However, in these situations, the framework and guidelines for applying ideal care in such circumstances are in the hands of ACLS providers. ACLS algorithms are derived from previous experiences in similar cases, with the goal of allowing providers to pursue the ideal outcome for patients in emergencies. This handbook provides the foundation of the algorithms that make up the systematic approach of the ACLS Survey (applying steps ABCD) and the BLS Survey.

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