If you haven't been well-trained in CPR and you see someone having what appears to be a heart attack, just doing chest compressions to help keep the blood flowing can be as effective as CPR that includes mouth-to-mouth breathing, new research claims.
Two new studies, appearing in the July 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that when bystanders were instructed by emergency dispatchers to give either standard CPR, which includes mouth-to-mouth breathing, or chest-compression-only CPR, survival rates were similar between the two techniques.
Experts hope that by simplifying the procedure and removing the mouth-to-mouth contact that more bystanders might be willing to attempt CPR.
"Bystander CPR can double your chances of survival, but the biggest thing is getting more people to try it," explained the lead author of one of the studies, Dr. Thomas Rea, medical director of the Emergency Medical Services Division of Public Health for Seattle and King County in Washington. "If we can make it less complicated, it may enable more people to perform CPR."
"Only one in three people who need it, get bystander CPR."
-Dr. Thomas Rea
Rea said that rescue breathing can be difficult, especially for someone who isn't trained in the technique. Even in people who are trained, but don't often have the chance to practice rescue breathing, it can be hard to do.
"Even for myself as a physician, because I don't do mouth-to-mouth on a regular basis, it's hard to do," said Dr. Dana Peres Edelson, director of clinical research at the emergency resuscitation center at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Edelson said that if you see a seemingly healthy adult suddenly drop, call 911 and then begin chest compressions. Emergency dispatchers can provide instructions on where to place your hands. If someone else is available to help, she said to have them call 911 and to go look for an automatic defibrillator, which are now present in many public places, such as malls, schools and stadiums.