CPR: Hands-Only Method More Effective, Less Yucky

Hands-only CPR shown to be more effective than traditional lifesaving method. (istockphoto)

(CBS/AP) Hands-only CPR doesn't just eliminate the "yuck factor." A new study shows it can save more lives.

It's the first large American study to show more adults survived cardiac arrest when a bystander gave them continuous chest presses to simulate a heartbeat, compared to traditional CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) with mouth-to-mouth breathing.

"Anyone who can put one hand on top of the other, lock their elbows and push hard and fast can do this. No risk, no fear of causing harm," said lead author Dr. Ben Bobrow of the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix.

"We want to take away all the reasons bystanders do nothing when they witness another person collapse."

With hands-only CPR, advocates say, potential rescuers don't have to contemplate what for some could be the "yuck factor" of putting their mouth to an unconscious person's mouth and breathing for them.

For others, the trimmed-down method simplifies a confusing procedure learned years ago and barely remembered: How many breaths? How many chest compressions? Are you supposed to pinch the nose?

Standard CPR with mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions is still best for very small children and victims of near-drowning and drug overdose, experts say, instances where breathing problems probably led to the cardiac arrest.

Nonstop chest compressions work better for adult cardiac arrest because most people take too long to do mouth-to-mouth, said senior author Dr. Gordon Ewy (pronounced AY'-vee) of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center.

After cardiac arrest, oxygenated blood can't get to the brain without help. Most rescuers take about 16 seconds to perform two CPR breaths - long enough to starve the organs of oxygen.

"Your hands are their heart," Ewy said. "When you stop pressing on the chest, blood flow to the brain stops."

The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

How do you do hands-only CPR? Here are the steps:

  • If someone collapses, doesn't respond to gentle shaking and stops normal breathing, call 911 or tell someone else to call.
  • With the victim on his back, place the heel of one of your hands atop the other on the middle of the victim's breastbone.
  • Lock your elbows. With your shoulders over your hands, fall forward using your body weight. Press 100 times a minute. Think of the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive" for the tempo.
  • If an automated external defibrillator is available, switch it on and follow the instructions. If not, continue chest compressions until paramedics arrive.