When someone collapses and stops breathing due to cardiac arrest, the actions of bystanders can very literally mean the difference between life and death. Unfortunately, many people either lack the necessary training to perform life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or aren’t confident enough in their ability to do it correctly because they can’t recall important details such as the ratio of chest compressions to rescue breaths. Some may also avoid taking action because they’re reluctant to make mouth-to-mouth contact with someone they don’t know or they fear they might injure the person.
The good news is, current American Heart Association guidelines now recommend a much simpler, easier-to-remember form of CPR for non-medical bystanders who witness a sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. Called hands-only CPR, this form of the technique eliminates the rescue-breathing component and simply involves performing chest compressions to keep blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until emergency responders arrive on the scene.
Knowing that hands-only CPR is a viable option can help bystanders overcome the reluctance to take action in situations where they don’t know the victim, don’t know why the victim is down, or don’t have a barrier device to prevent direct mouth-to-mouth contact with the victim.
According to Kristina Miller, coordinator of ProMedica’s CPR Rescue Training Center, hands-only CPR is appropriate any time someone is unconscious and not breathing. “If you see someone collapse or find someone unresponsive, first check for breathing and call 911—or have someone else call—to ensure medical help is on the way. Then, if you determine the victim isn’t breathing, begin pushing hard and fast on the lower half of his or her breastbone and keep going until the EMTs arrive or someone with better CPR training can take over.”
Hands-only CPR is performed from a kneeling position with the victim lying flat on the ground or floor. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest, and then place the heel of the other hand on top of the first and lace your fingers together. Your shoulders should be positioned directly over your hands, and your arms should be kept straight. Use your body weight to compress the victim’s chest, and try to press the chest down two inches with each compression.
The appropriate rate for the compressions is 100 to 120 per minute. Miller notes that an easy way to maintain the right rhythm is to do compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” or the popular kids’ song “Baby Shark,” which every parent with a young child knows. You will likely start to get fatigued as you perform the chest compressions, but it’s important to continue until EMS arrives. If possible, alternate doing the compressions with someone else on the scene.
Miller points out that having the knowledge and ability to perform CPR with rescue breathing is still important for medical professionals and other trained rescuers and is taught (in addition to the hands-only technique) in the ProMedica CPR Rescue Training Center’s Heartsaver CPR program, which is geared toward individuals who are expected to respond to emergencies in the workplace. “However, to provide quick, easy, and memorable CPR training for the layperson, the most effective approach is to teach hands-only CPR,” she says.
For more information about ProMedica’s CPR Rescue Training Center or to get on the schedule for the Heartsaver CPR class, call 419-291-3053. ❦