What is hands-only CPR?

Is it true that CPR is now performed without breaths?

Is hands-only CPR (a.k.a. compression-only CPR) the new standard? The short answer is no. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. “Cardio” refers to the heart and “pulmonary” refers to the lungs. Traditionally speaking, CPR is performed as a combination of chest compressions and ventilations (to circulate blood containing oxygen throughout the body, helping to keep vital organs alive).

But what if I’m uncomfortable with mouth-to-mouth contact? Can’t I still help in an emergency?

The short answer is yes. There is an abbreviated version of CPR that is performed without breathing into the victim. There are different names for this, but generally it is referred to as “hands-only CPR” or “compression-only CPR.”

Simply said, this abbreviated version of CPR helps to save the lives of adult victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Although it is less effective than traditional CPR (because oxygen in the bloodstream needs to be replenished), given a choice between offering some care or no care at all, compression/hands-only CPR is a great temporary alternative (utilizing residual oxygen left in the body). Since seconds are ticking away, it’s critical that compressions begin as soon as you recognize that there are no signs of life.

Schedule a hands-only CPR class for your group, to be held either at work or at home

Schedule a hands-only CPR class for your group, to be held either at work or at home

When is it okay to give chest compressions without breaths, and when is it not?

In a hands/compression-only class, you will learn how to recognize when it is appropriate and when it is not appropriate to begin compressions, and how to provide effective compressions. So when is CPR without breaths appropriate?

  • When it is not safe to give breaths, as in when there is no “breathing barrier” available to protect the rescuer from potential disease transmission.
  • When the only potential rescuer on the scene is untrained in traditional CPR (or has forgotten their training).

And when isn’t CPR without breaths appropriate?

  • When the victim is conscious.
  • When the victim is breathing normally (not gasping for breath).
  • When the victim is known to be suffering from lack of oxygen (as in a choking or drowning emergency).
  • When the victim is an infant or child (up to age 12).

Once again, doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Doing something has potential for helping a person, while doing nothing does not. Compression-only or hands-only CPR does help to save lives. Getting as many people in the community as possible trained to help in an emergency is our goal. So at CPR-Twin Cities, we offer classes in both traditional and less traditional forms of CPR.