Compression Only CPR – Am I supposed to give breaths during CPR? -

Compression Only CPR – Am I supposed to give breaths during CPR?

Compression only CPR, or hands only CPR was introduced around 2008, but there are many people who still have questions about it. “Do we still give breaths during CPR? I heard that we don’t anymore…?” is one of the more common questions in a CPR class.

Beating the heart for the patient by performing effective compressions (pushing on the chest) is the most critical part of CPR and a large focus in any CPR class. Compression, or hands-only CPR is just what it sounds like, performing CPR by just pushing hard on the chest of the patient to compress the heart to keep blood pumping, without delivering ventilations (breaths).  Hands-Only CPR is an easy, effective way for any bystander, especially if they act immediately, to double or triple a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival. However, if you are a healthcare provider, you should still give breaths and follow the guidelines of your certifying agency and employer.

Hands only, or compression only CPR was introduced to be taught and performed only under specific instances, generally by bystanders. The quicker that an emergency can be recognized and that CPR (compressions) can be started, the higher the chance for survival. All humans still need oxygen of course, so if you are trained, willing and able to give breaths that is ideal. However, there are many people who haven’t been trained on how to deliver effective breaths or they don’t feel comfortable giving mouth to mouth ventilations for a variety of reasons. The idea is that performing hands only CPR is much better than doing nothing at all. 

If you have never been trained on giving effective breaths, it can be an intimidating task and difficult for a dispatcher or anyone else to instruct you how to do it properly without being trained. These thoughts can lead to delays in CPR and also improper technique, so it is best to just push on the chest as even a 9-1-1 dispatcher can usually direct you on how and where to perform compressions alone. For those who are trained but may not have the safety measures or confidence to perform breaths, they should also opt for hands only CPR. If you don’t have a breathing barrier or other safety device designed to give breaths safely and you are concerned about giving mouth to mouth ventilations, then compressions alone are acceptable. 

In some cases, certain bystanders may be literally unable to perform breaths due to health reasons (COPD, Asthma, etc) and again this is the perfect time to do compressions alone. To summarize, performing CPR as trained in a proper certification course, with the right tools, gives people the best chance for survival. However, anyone who is unwilling, untrained, or unable to give breaths should perform hands only CPR. There are a lot of great resources from the American Heart Association, American Red Cross and even some entertaining videos on you-tube to quickly learn the steps and hand placement for giving hands only CPR which could save the life of someone close to you.

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