April 23, 2013

It Only Takes a Push—A look at compression-only CPR

A co-worker collapses in front of you and lays unresponsive on the floor. You’ve taken CPR training, but:

    • You don’t really remember just how to do the head-tilt, chin-lift maneuver
    • You don’t have a mouth barrier or pocket mask
    • You are uncomfortable performing rescue breaths

After ensuring EMS has been contacted, is there anything else you can do?

You bet there is.

For sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), recent studies1-2 have established the use of compression- only CPR as an effective alternative to conventional CPR, which combines chest compressions with rescue breaths (also known as “ventilations”). The immediate recognition of the emergency, activation of the EMS system by calling 911, and delivery of continuous chest compressions for a witnessed, sudden collapse of an adult could significantly increase the chance of survival.

It is important to understand that there are cases of cardiac arrest that could benefit from conventional CPR. This includes events that are not witnessed, arrests in children, and arrests caused by non-cardiac–related problems such as drowning or drug overdose. However, if a rescuer is not trained in conventional CPR, or is unable to provide conventional CPR (including rescue breaths), the bystander should give continuous, uninterrupted chest compressions until help arrives.

By eliminating the apprehension associated with performing rescue breaths, compression-only CPR may encourage more bystanders to take immediate action and attempt CPR when an adult collapse is witnessed. A person who is unresponsive and not breathing or not breathing normally (only gasping), has little chance for survival without help.

Remember, nothing the bystander can do can harm the person further. Immediate delivery of chest compressions can only help.

In March 2011, Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes reported on research investigating the use of video to teach compression-only CPR. According to their findings, “Video training as brief as one minute led to participants being more likely to give hands-only CPR, at a rate and compression depth significantly closer to the ideal than those with no training.”

ASHI and MEDIC First Aid make it easy to help spread the word about compression-only CPR. We offer a free public service announcement DVD Push Here to Save a Life, which features short videos on this lifesaving technique. You can even add your own Training Center logo and contact info at the end of the PSA for your local media. You can order yours by clicking the button below.

Push Here To Save A Life

For our readers who aren’t emergency care instructors, have you taken a CPR class since compression-only CPR became widespread?

Find A Class, ASHI, MEDIC First Aid


1 "CPR with Chest Compression Alone or with Rescue Breathing". Rea, T.D., et al; July 29, 2010; N Engle J Med.

2 "Hands-Only (Compression-Only) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: A Call to Action for Bystander Response to Adults Who Experience Out-of-Hospital Sudden Cardiac Arrest". American Heart Association science advisory; March 31, 2008; Circulation.