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Chest compressions save lives
New CPR techniques recommended by American Heart Association

Have you ever been in a situation where someone around you needed CPR? Have you ever had to take emergency action to try to save someone’s life?

For more than 40 years, the American Heart Association has guided healthcare professionals and the general public through CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) courses that teach how to administer emergency care to people who have gone into sudden cardiac arrest. The organization focused on A-B-C – Airway, Breathing, Circulation (Compressions) – using a series of techniques to open the airway, breathing into the victim’s mouth and then performing chest compressions.

But in October, the organization changed its teaching to focus on the importance of compressions before opening the airway and breathing into the victim’s mouth, changing the order to C-A-B.

“Performing chest compressions immediately when a person has been determined unresponsive keeps oxygen-rich blood circulating through the body,” said Dr. Theresa Hoadley, Associate Professor at Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing in Peoria, and a member of American Heart Association Volunteer Leadership Team.

Starting chest compressions immediately also saves on critical time lost while trying to open the person’s airway.

“We hope these new recommendations will encourage more bystanders to take action should someone have a medical emergency in a public setting,” said Dr. Hoadley. “Performing CPR immediately can double or triple a person’s chance of survival. A person who may not have been comfortable at one time giving mouth-to-mouth to a stranger can rest assured that the simple act of performing chest compressions can still be effective in saving a life.”

Steps for effective CPR?

1. Make sure the scene is safe.

2. Shake the victim’s shoulders and shout to see if they respond.

3. If the victim does not respond and the victim is not breathing or not breathing normally, shout for someone to call 9-1-1 and get an AED (automated external defibrillator), if available.

• If you’re alone, call 9-1-1 and get an AED if available. Follow the AED’s voice prompts.

• If no AED is available, immediately start CPR, beginning with compressions.


4. Push hard and fast on the center of the chest 30 times, at a rate of at least 100 compressions a minute. For adults, push down at least 2 inches with each compression. If you haven’t been trained in CPR, continue to give compressions until an AED arrives or trained help takes over.


5. If you have been trained in CPR, continue CPR by opening the airway with a head tilt – chin lift.


6. Pinch the victim’s nose closed. Take a normal breath and cover the victim’s mouth with your mouth, creating an airtight seal. Give two breaths (one second each). Watch for chest to rise as you give each breath.

7. Keep giving sets of 30 compressions and two breaths until the AED arrives or trained help takes over.

The American Heart Association reviews and updates the guidelines for CPR every five years, consulting the expertise of leading resuscitation experts from around the world. Guidelines are scrutinized for sudden cardiac arrest in adults, children, infants and newborns. The guidelines were first instituted in 1966, and are now used by a number of major ljorganizations around the world.

Find a CPR class in your area by logging on to The American Heart Association provides lists of classes for healthcare professionals and the lay (non-healthcare) providers.

Find out your health score by visiting

By Carrie Skogsberg, Communications Director American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate, Springfield, Ill., 217-698-3838.



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