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It has been proven that survival of heart attack patients, whose hearts have stopped beating, improved by 22 percent when bystanders called 911 and were advised by the dispatcher to do chest compression-only CPR (cardiopulmonary resustication) until emergency medical technicians arrive.
According to principal investigator Peter Nagele, when a person goes into cardiac arrest because of a problem with the heart, that individual normally has plenty of oxygen in the body. So rescue breaths aren't as vital to survival as trying to keep blood flowing as regularly as possible.
"The heart doesn't literally stop during cardiac arrest," he says. "It gets super excited and electrically very active, and the only way to get it back into rhythm is with an electrical shock, a defibrillation. By doing chest compression-only CPR, a bystander is basically buying time until a paramedic with a defibrillator can jump-start the heart."
The MD from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis cautions that if it takes more than 5 to 10 minutes for help to arrive, it also may become necessary to begin rescue breaths.
Gordon Ewy and Karl Kern of the University of Arizona's College of Medicine developed this new approach to CPR.
Bobrow BJ, Spaite DW, Berg RA, Stolz U, Sanders AB, Kern KB, VadeboncoeurTF, Clark LL, Gallagher JV, Stapczynski JS, LoVecchio F, Mullins TJ, Humbel WE , Ewy GA. Chest compression-only CPR by lay rescuers andsurvival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. JAMA. 2010 Oct 6;304(13):1447-54
Hüpfl M, Selig HF, Nagele P. Chest compression-only CPR: a meta-analysis. The Lancet, 2010; 376 (9749) DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61454-7