When international experts meet to discuss cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques, changes are sometimes recommended. This is one of those times.
Going hand in hand with American Heart Month, the new philosophy of CPR is to simplify things. Many people have taken a course in CPR, but after a few years it’s like, “How many chest compressions was it again? Was it mouth-to-mouth first or vice-versa?” And different techniques were used for different ages.
“Having different recommendations for different age groups is confusing,” said Col. Randolph Modlin, Division of Medicine chief and training director for advanced cardiac life support. “When someone has cardiac arrest (a sudden stopping of the heart), it’s a frightening situation. People stress out.”
The new guidelines eliminate some of the confusion by having one standard. No longer is it 15:2 compression-to-ventilation ratio for adults and 5:1 for infants and children. Now, it’s simply 30:2 for everyone. The more compressions the better, because each time chest compressions are stopped, so is blood flow.
“You have a window of a few minutes after cardiac arrest, but good CPR can increase that window,” he said. “Chest compressions don’t circulate much blood, but it doesn’t take a lot to supply some oxygen to the brain and heart until circulation can be restored.”
When giving the victim mouth-to-mouth, just take a normal breath (not a deep one) and administer the rescue breath. Each rescue breaths should be given over one second and should make the chest visibly rise.
In addition to more emphasis on compressions, a big aid in saving lives is the increase in out-of-hospital defibrillators.
“We are seeing them in the gym, airport, wherever large groups of people gather,” said Colonel Modlin. “They are designed to be used by everyone. They have simple directions, are intuitive and very effective. Studies have shown that teenagers are as effective in using them as adults.”
The important thing is to act quickly, stay calm and do something. Only about one-third of victims receive bystander CPR, he said. People worry about getting a disease by administering rescue breaths or they just panic. The risk of getting a disease is there, but it’s very small.
“Some CPR is better than no CPR,” he said. “And effective CPR is better, still. It can double or triple survival rates.”