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What Is Advanced Life Support?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

Advanced Life Support (ACLS), also referred to as Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), is a set of life-saving protocols and skills that extend beyond Basic Life Support (BLS). It is used to provide urgent treatment to cardiac emergencies such as cardiac arrest, stroke, myocardial infarction, and other conditions.


ALS is one of the vital steps in the American Heart Association's Chain of Survival, which is a sequence of actions that can increase survival rates of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) and other emergencies. The five critical actions include:


  • Immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system

  • Early high-quality CPR with an emphasis on chest compressions

  • Rapid defibrillation

  • Effective advanced life support

  • Integrated post-cardiac arrest care

Professionals qualified to provide advanced cardiac life support are trained and authorized to administer medication, perform injections, and conduct airway procedures prior to the arrival of the patient at an advanced care facility and/or in a hospital environment.

High-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation should be performed within the first 3-4 minutes of a sudden cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association recommends advanced cardiovascular life support be performed within the first 8 minutes of sudden cardiac arrest or another cardiac emergency for the patient's best chance of survival.


What Is the Difference Between Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ACLS)?

Basic Life Support is a level of medical skill used to treat victims experiencing life-threatening illnesses or injuries until they can be given full medical care at a hospital. BLS requires knowledge and skills related to CPR, use of AEDs, and relieving airway obstructions. Emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or even qualified bystanders can perform BLS.

ACLS should be performed only by paramedics and healthcare providers who have undergone more extensive training than an EMT.

Some other key differences between BLS and ACLS include:

  • A BLS provider is not authorized to perform invasive procedures, and may only administer a few select medications. ACLS providers perform invasive procedures and administer a wide array of medications.

  • A BLS unit includes two emergency medical technicians, while an AC

LS unit also has at least one paramedic.

  • An ACLS unit is equipped with advanced airway equipment, a cardiac monitor/defibrillator, IV fluids, medications, and more.





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