New CPR Guidelines Emphasize Compressions First

Don't fret about mouth-to-mouth. The average, untrained person can still save a life by focusing on chest compressions first, say new guidelines from the American Heart Association. The simplified form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, focuses on giving chest compressions to keep the blood and the oxygen in the blood flowing to the heart and brain. The group's advice comes on the heels of studies in the past year trumpeting that a compression-only approach is as good or better than compression plus mouth-to-mouth. It updates guidelines from 2005.

"For a variety of reasons, when someone suddenly collapses in cardiac arrest, people often don't start any type of CPR, and one of the barriers, we believe, is that people think it's fairly complicated to do CPR," explained Dr. Michael Sayre, co-author of the new guidelines and chairman of the American Heart Association's emergency cardiovascular care committee. "But chest compressions alone are easy, and anyone can do it," he said. "Chest compressions actually act like an artificial heart, pumping blood to the heart and brain," Sayre noted. "And, that blood often will have a reserve of oxygen."

The American Heart Association recommends that if an adult is unresponsive and not breathing or is having occasional unusual breaths that sound like gasping, any bystander should first call 911 and then begin chest compressions. If someone else is nearby, send that person in search of an automatic external defibrillator, a device that can shock the heart back into normal rhythm. "To give the victim the best chance of survival, three actions must occur within the first moments of a cardiac arrest: activation of the EMS system, provision of CPR and operation of a defibrillator," the new guidelines state.
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