Rethinking CPR: Is Chest Compressions Better Than CPR?

According to a new report from the University of Arizona’s Sarver Heart Center’s Resuscitation Research Group, the odds of surviving an acute cardiac episode improve significantly when first responders begin chest compressions alone rather than the more traditional cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) technique of mouth-to-mouth breathing. Advanced Heart And Vascular Of Central New Jersey has some nice tips on this.

The Sarver research team analysed data on cardiac arrest survivorship rates with the help of experts from the Arizona Department of Health Services. Only 5% of victims survive without any assistance, while those who receive traditional CPR have a survival rate of about 6%. Those who received only chest compressions and no rescue breathing, on the other hand, were more than 11 percent more likely to survive the incident.

Furthermore, the researchers discovered that in cases where witnesses were present at the time of the incident and emergency medical responders used a defibrillator to restore heart rhythm, up to 32% of victims survived solely on chest compressions. Victims who did not receive any kind of help from bystanders had a 17 percent chance of surviving, while those who received standard CPR had a 19 percent chance of surviving.

These findings also revealed a shift in how first responders now use their formal CPR training in emergency situations. Since 2006, the number of cases in which a CPR-trained person only used chest compressions to treat a cardiac victim has increased from about 16 percent to more than 75 percent.

The issue of CPR vs. exclusive chest compressions is further complicated by the fact that some experts estimate that only about 20% of people would perform traditional CPR on a stranger. Only two decades ago, more than 60% of people said they would use CPR to save the life of a stranger if the situation arose.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has recommended that witnesses to a collapse use only chest compressions instead of standard CPR for the past ten years. This policy change is in response to an increasing number of people who are uncomfortable performing mouth-to-mouth breathing on strangers. According to the American Heart Association, some level of care in the moments immediately following a cardiac event is clearly preferable to no care at all.

Cardiologists, CPR instructors, and public health policy educators now have the responsibility of informing the general public about these study findings and encouraging people to overcome their fears of mouth-to-mouth breathing on strangers. Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of many experts in the area, the American public has been reluctant to accept the concept of exclusive chest compressions. In reality, the traditional rescue breathing and chest compression combination is still taught in many formal CPR training courses.