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New CPR Rules

By Corey M. Mackenzie ; Updated March 16, 2018

The purpose of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to manually keep the heart pumping blood and keep vital oxygen moving into the bloodstream to prevent brain death. Although CPR isn’t as efficient as natural heart and lung function, it can buy the victim vital minutes until medical personnel arrive with life-saving equipment. The American Heart Association has determined that often the most essential part of CPR is to keep the heart pumping; because of this, new CPR rules have been developed which increase the ratio of chest compressions to rescue breaths and, in the case of hands-only CPR, eliminates rescue breathing completely.


CPR methods differ depending on whether the patient is an adult, a child or an infant. For example, if the victim is an adult, chest compressions are performed by placing one hand over the other and pressing in a swift downward motion. For child victims, use the heel of one hand, and for infants use two fingers, rather than the hand. Other factors, such as victim’s injuries (for example if the person is a victim of a serious car accident and may have chest injuries) may change how CPR is administered, if it should be administered at all.


For many years, standard CPR trainers taught that (for an adult victim) first responders should give 15 heart compressions per every 2 breaths administered with rescue breathing. The American Heart Association decided that this method wasted valuable time for the heart-- while time was spent pushing air into the lungs, the heart was allowed to remain dangerously inactive.

New Rules

The American Heart Association has developed new simplified rules for those previously trained, or currently in CPR training. To perform CPR on adults: instead of 15 compressions for every 2 breaths, the American Heart Association has determined you should give at least 30 chest compressions for every 2 breaths. The American Heart Association also developed a hands-only guide for those on the scene who are not trained in CPR or who don’t feel comfortable performing rescue breathing. Hands-only CPR is very easy--after calling 911, push fast (nearly two compressions per second) and hard on the victim’s chest (in the center).


Blood must circulate to provide cells with oxygen and nutrients. When the heart ceases pumping blood, cells begin to starve and die. Chest compressions artificially force blood in and out of the heart and rescue breathing forces a small amount of oxygen into the lungs. According to the American Heart Association, hands-only CPR has been shown to be as effective as standard CPR in emergencies.


The depth required (about 2 inches) for compressions to stimulate the heart muscle often bruises or even breaks ribs. Before beginning CPR (in most cases), call 911 or your local emergency responders. If more than one person is present on the scene, have that person call while you begin CPR. Even if the victim revives, he or she will need medical attention as soon as possible. Keep in mind, however, that in any situation CPR is necessary, it should be started as soon as possible.


Before beginning any form of CPR, try to determine if the person has stopped breathing and his or her heart has stopped, or if he or she has simply stopped breathing. If the victim has simply stopped breathing, perform rescue breathing before doing anything else. There are other situations that require rescue breathing in addition to chest compressions--for example, if the victim has collapsed due to asthma attack.

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