Change is in the air for anyone who has learned Cardiopulminary Resuscitation (CPR) in the last few years. The American Heart Association has released new guidelines for CPR aimed at simplifying what was often a complicated learning process.
What follows are major changes for lay people only; healthcare workers will also see changes in their CPR guidelines that are beyond the scope of this article.
Hard and Fast
The emphasis is now on improved delivery of effective chest compressions. The watchword now is “push hard and push fast”. After giving a chest compression, allow the chest to come back up completely – in order to allow the heart to fill with blood – before pushing down again. All victims except newborns should receive about 100 compressions a minute. Also, try not to interrupt chest compressions, since every time you stop, the heart and brain stops getting blood.
One Easy Ratio
There is now a single compression-to-ventilation ratio for all single rescuers for all victims (except newborns). No longer do you have to memorize different ratios for different victims. Everyone gets 30 compressions to two breaths. Period.
Every rescue breath should now be given over one second, and should make the chest visibly rise. Breaths that are longer, or stronger, may take away from time for chest compressions, and may also cause too much air to enter the victim’s stomach.
When a lay rescuer uses an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED), it will now only offer a single shock, followed by instructions to resume CPR. Research has found that the old method of three shocks in a row didn’t work any better than one shock, and three shocks take away time that CPR could be performed. But it will take some time for the companies that make AED’s to reprogram them for the new recommendations, so if you use one that offers three shocks instead, go ahead and use it anyway.
Speaking of AED’s, the other major change involves use of AED’s for children. The American Heart Association now endorses the use of AED’s in children age one and older. If the AED has child-sized pads, use them. Otherwise, use the adult pads. If they overlap on a child’s chest, put one on the child’s chest, and one on their back.
Take a Recertification Class
This is just a brief summary of the major changes in CPR over the past year. To properly learn and practice them, contact your local hospital or fire department regarding recertification courses. Learning the latest in CPR science may help you to save a life.