Think you can’t do CPR? Think again


Dr. Banks demonstrates hands-only CPR on a compression dummy.

It’s a Tuesday after work, and you stop at the supermarket. You’re fumbling for your debit card when suddenly the man in front of you in line clutches his chest, then drops to the floor. He’s suffering cardiac arrest.

You catch your breath. What do you do?

If you freeze, or if your answer is, “Nothing,” you’re not alone. Unfortunately, that’s how most people react. Often they’re afraid they won’t do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) the right way, or sometimes it’s basic “stranger danger” – not wanting to get too close to someone they don’t know, especially when that person is obviously not in a healthy state.

But the new hands-only CPR guidelines from the American Heart Association are an effective tool to change how people react when someone around them is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The new guidelines make it less scary and less overwhelming for bystanders to act, and it’s just as effective as traditional CPR.

Why hands-only CPR?

Every year, more than 300,000 people suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital – at home, at work, or out and about, such as at the grocery store. When that happens, the survival rate is extremely low. It’s even lower when no one is around to help, or when bystanders are afraid to start CPR.

The hands-only CPR guidelines are an effort to help people understand that out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is common, and that we shouldn’t be afraid to act when it happens. Every minute counts when a person’s heart stops beating, and your actions could mean life or death for a person in need.

Hands-Only CPR

Transcript of hands-only CPR video with Dr. Kami Banks
There’s a very good chance you may need to use CPR to save the life of a family member, friend, or even a stranger. Every year, more than 300,000 people suffer from a cardiac arrest outside the hospital.
Cardiac arrest occurs when someone’s heart stops beating unexpectedly. When that happens, the survival rate is extremely low – even lower if there’s no one willing or able to help. Every minute counts when a person’s heart stops beating, and your actions could mean the difference between life and death.
Hands-only CPR is CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths. It is really simple, and it involves only two steps.
First, if you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, call 9-1-1. Then push hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. Here’s how.
Get down on your knees. Place the heel of one hand in the center of the chest. Place your other hand on top. Lock your elbows and push. Push hard and fast.
Hands-only CPR is recommended if you see someone suddenly collapse in an out of hospital setting – at home, at work, at a restaurant, or even at a store. Research proves that CPR can more than double a person’s chance of survival.
Learn hands-only CPR today, and you could save a life.

What are the hands-only CPR steps?

Traditional CPR – giving chest compressions combined with mouth-on-mouth breaths – requires training. People have to learn how many compressions to do, how many breaths to give, in what order to do these steps, and when to call 911. That algorithm was found to be complicated and intimidating for ordinary people in emergency situations.

Hands-only CPR is a simple, two-step process. If someone collapses near you with no obvious cause (such as trauma) and is not responsive, you should first call 911. If other people are close by, shout for someone to call 911 and look for a defibrillator. Then you should start performing chest compressions, and keep giving compressions until either the person resuscitates or the emergency medical services (EMS) team arrives. That’s it. No breaths, no complicated patterns. It’s very straightforward and simple. When EMS arrives, they will determine what caused the person to collapse.

It’s important to note that the CPR process has not changed for EMS workers. The guidelines have only changed for bystanders who, without a simpler process, may have felt afraid or unprepared to begin CPR.

Chest compressions circulate a person’s blood when their heart can’t, as in the case of cardiac arrest. You press on the chest, which presses on the heart, which helps to circulate blood throughout the body. Compressions should be performed at the rate of 100 beats per minute, similar to the beat of the Bee Gees’ song, “Stayin’ Alive” (which certainly seems appropriate).

Does hands-only CPR work?

Physicians who studied the differences between hands-only and traditional CPR found that people were much more likely, as expected, to deliver hands-only CPR. There’s less of a “yuck” factor (you don’t have to put your mouth on a stranger’s mouth) and less of a worry about doing it wrong.

Researchers also looked at the effectiveness of hands-only CPR compared to traditional CPR in a randomized, controlled test. They found that people who were randomized to perform hands-only CPR gave more efficient compressions.All they had to worry about was giving compressions, and they didn’t have to worry about giving or missing breaths. The study also found that hands-only compressions were started sooner and lasted for a longer period of time. Research also suggests that hands-only CPR is just as effective for saving lives as traditional CPR, if not more so.

The chance that person will survive if you don’t start compressions is next to nothing. Don’t worry about what harm you can inflict on that person – dying from cardiac arrest is a much worse fate than any harm you can cause.

Take a moment to watch this important video from the American Heart Association. It shows just how easy hand-only CPR is, and it gives you the knowledge to potentially save a life.