Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Taking the Resuscitation Out of CPR

For 50 years, ever since cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was first described in 1960, rescuers have been saving lives the same way, by combining mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions to revive unresponsive victims. But after new data showed that chest compressions alone were just as effective as traditional CPR in rescuing victims of cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association (AHA) decided to update the decades-old process. The new rules for CPR put more emphasis on the chest compressions, and in some cases do away with resuscitating breaths altogether.

In recent years, several studies have found that untrained bystanders are more comfortable performing chest compressions, without mouth-to-mouth — even with the help of a trained 911 operator — and that victims who receive only compressions are as likely to survive as those who receive full CPR. These results, coupled with the fact that only 30% of those in need of CPR actually get it — in large part because of untrained bystanders' reluctance to perform what they view as a complex procedure — forced the AHA to revise its CPR guidelines.

The new recommendations advise all rescuers, including trained emergency medical personnel, to reverse the current protocol for CPR and begin with 30 firm chest compressions, then turn to resuscitating breaths. The priority for those whose hearts may be in distress, say AHA experts, is to get the heart pumping again, and starting off with chest compressions may keep damage from a stopped heart to a minimum.