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Saving Time While Saving Lives

A new study has found that chest compressions alone have saved more lives in emergency situations than when compressions were combined with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Dr. James Reiffel spoke with the Early Show May 26 about the time-saving aspects of the life-saving procedure.

Reiffel, a cardiologist at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, says that the study findings do not mean that people should not use CPR when a person has stopped breathing, especially in certain cases where CPR is necessary. "We're saying, for those people not trained in CPR, there's an easier way as a bystander to perform it successfully."

The difference was in the time that it took 911 operators to explain the two procedures over the phone to people that did not know either one. It took about a minute to explain chest compressions and 2 minutes to explain CPR.

"It takes too long, when it's two and a half minutes, to be successful," Reiffel says. "Chest compression is much easier to explain, and the effect was virtually the same."

Reiffel says that anonymous bystanders often prefer chest compressions to mouth-to mouth resuscitation because of the fear of catching a mouth-borne disease from a person they do not know.

That minute and a half saved by untrained people who performed chest compressions can mean the difference between life and death for the victim. "It turns out that it's very important," Reiffel says. "We know that resuscitation is more effective the sooner you begin CPR."

Reiffel stressed that CPR is still the best technique for people trained in the method.

To learn more about CPR training or to find a class near you, contact your local office of the American Heart Association or visit their Web site at

The research is published in the May 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
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