Interrupted or uninterrupted CPR, does it matter?

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, was developed in 1960 and is the current standard for helping saving the life of someone who’s heart has stopped or who has stopped breathing. CPR consists of a series of chest compression and mouth to mouth breathing to continue pumping blood to the brain and heart while paramedics are on route. Contrary to what Hollywood typically shows, CPR is unlikely to restart someone’s heart on its own. The accepted technique for CPR is to perform 30 chest compressions before checking the person’s airway and giving them mouth to mouth for two breaths. The chest compressions should be done with your body weight and not just your arms and should compress the chest 5 centimeters (or 2 inches). Guidelines suggest a rate of 100 compressions per minute. It has been recommended to people unfamiliar with proper CPR technique that forgoing the mouth to mouth and just doing chest compressions until help arrives is acceptable.

In recent years, it has been questions whether interrupting chest compressions to give a breath could be detrimental to the subject and that a better method would be to give oxygen to a person (with a bag) while performing chest compressions. The down side to this technique is that it would require two people to be present. Currently, neither technique is recommended for paramedics over the other.

Recently, a large clinical trial was published in the New England Journal of Medicine to answer questions concerning the appropriate method for CPR compressions. Is it better for patients to have continuous chest compressions while supplying their oxygen through a mask at the same time? Or is the traditional method of chest compression interrupted with mouth to mouth the best way to go? To answer this questions, data was collected from 114 Emergency service agencies across Canada and the US for a total of 23,711 patients. The results showed that patients who received continuous chest compressions were no more likely to survive their ordeal and did not have better neurological functions after the ordeal than those who received interrupted chest compressions (the traditional method).

These results were surprising to those involved. The concern with the traditional method was that while the compressions were ceased the blood would not be flowing through the body and could hurt the survival chances of the person. The paper suggests that the method of chest compressions does not make a difference (continuous or interrupted), it only matters that chest compressions are done promptly on a person in cardiac arrest. As a bystander, these results wont mean much to you. It is still recommended that someone who doesn’t know CPR or is rusty in their skills should just focus on chest compressions until paramedics arrive. Performing proper CPR on someone who’s heart has stopped can double or triple their chances of survival. The key is effective and correct CPR, and for this reason it is important to take first aid and learn for yourself.

Image Credit: CPR for Dummies


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