CPR, or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is used to assist victims who are not breathing. Traditionally, CPR has included both rescue breathing (to keep the lungs ventilated and supplied with oxygen) and chest compressions (to maintain blood flow to the vital organs). Bentley Bobrow of the Arizona Department of Health Services led a team of doctors from Universities and Hospitals throughout Arizona in challenging that combination. According to them, it’s more effective for bystanders to forego rescue breathing altogether, and concentrate on chest compressions alone.
The scientists examined the records of patients who had been hospitalized for cardiac arrest. Because the scientists were interested in advising the lay population, they excluded patients who had been treated in the field by medical professionals. Of those remaining, some received standard CPR from an untrained bystander, some received chest compressions but no rescue breathing, and some got no CPR until arrival at the hospital.
Not surprisingly, those who received some form of CPR faired better than those who received none. What was surprising was that the group that did not receive rescue breathing had a slight advantage over the group that got chest compressions plus rescue breathing.
The researchers believe that one explanation for this is that the benefit of supplying the lungs with oxygen is more than offset by the drawback of having the blood flow temporarily interrupted. In other words, it’s best not to pause the chest compressions for anything, not even to ventilate the lungs.