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CPR Guidelines Are Simplified

There's a new, simpler rule for giving CPR in most cases - just push repeatedly on the stricken person's chest until help arrives.  (For important exceptions, please see below.)

In the past, potential rescuers were instructed to clear the airway, push on the chest, give mouth-to-mouth breaths and check periodically for a pulse. The procedure - cardiopulmonary resuscitation - has now been streamlined for cases when a person suddenly collapses and has no pulse or heartbeat. In this situation, the American Heart Association says to forgo airway clearing, breaths and pulse checks and just concentrate on the pushing on the chest — a procedure called “hands only” CPR.

Even if a would-be rescuer has never taken a CPR class in his or her life, if he or she sees someone suddenly collapse, the heart association advises calling 911 and then pushing hard and fast on the stricken person’s breastbone — 100 times a minute, more than once a second — until emergency medical technicians or paramedics arrive. It’s also important to ask someone fetch an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is nearby so the rescuer can attempt to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.

Administering hands-only CPR before professional help arrives is just as effective as traditional CPR at helping someone survive a sudden shutdown of the heart, the association says.

Important Exceptions

But there are important exceptions to the advice to use the new, simpler procedure:

People stricken with “noncardiac” arrest, which usually means they had breathing problems before their hearts went haywire, do benefit from the old-style CPR.  So may children and victims of drowning, trauma, airway obstruction and acute respiratory disease. According to the Harvard Health Letter, when the heart association gave its blessing to hands-only CPR, it came with a proviso that conventional CPR techniques might still benefit some people, including those just mentioned. 

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