When and How to Perform Chest Compressions-Only CPR

Chest compressions-only CPR is a rescue method that can save lives if performed correctly. Unlike traditional CPR, which involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation (otherwise known as ‘rescue breathing’), chest compressions-only CPR removes the artificial ventilation factor and focuses only on bringing the heart into a natural rhythm.

This method is increasingly favoured by health experts. Several studies have shown that in a medical emergency, bystanders hesitate to intervene, fearing they may cause further harm to the person. They may also be reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a stranger for hygienic reasons. Furthermore, other studies indicate that interrupting chest compressions by attempting mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can potentially hamper blood flow.

Chest compressions-only CPR is generally easier to learn and remember than traditional CPR, and non-medical personnel are often more willing to perform this method. Not only that, but compression-only CPR can be more effective — in fact, according to studies conducted in the United States, researchers found that:

“Adults who experienced cardiac arrest in a non-hospital setting, such as a restaurant or mall, were 60% more likely to survive if they received compression-only CPR than if they received traditional CPR or no CPR until an emergency medical services (EMS) crew arrived at the scene.”

When should you apply compression-only CPR?

If a person is unresponsive with either no or abnormal breathing, it is highly recommended to administer CPR as soon as possible. He or she is likely in cardiac arrest and needs immediate CPR to offer the best chance of survival .

Compression-only CPR should be applied when the rescuer is untrained or not confident in performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation correctly. As long as the blood is adequately circulated, there is often enough oxygen left in the blood stream to enable the brain and other organs to survive until medical assistance arrives on the scene.

The longer the patient is left untreated, the less likely his/her chance of survival. Given that compression-only CPR is, in most cases, easier to recall, you can potentially shave off precious seconds by applying this method rather than opting for traditional CPR.

In addition, studies have shown that bystanders who had no knowledge of CPR were able to successfully administer compression-only CPR with simple instructions provided over the phone by emergency personnel.

How to perform compression-only CPR

The below outlines a basic guideline to CPR steps for chest-compressions only CPR.

Before launching into chest compressions, take the time to do the following:

  1. Check the person — tap him/her on the shoulder to see if he/she is responsive, and look for signs of rhythmic, normal breathing.
  2. If he or she is unresponsive or unconscious and not breathing or not breathing normally, call 000 for emergency assistance or ask a bystander to do so.
  3. Begin chest compressions.

CPR instructions for chest compressions-only:

  1. Take a kneeling position next to the person.
  2. Place the heel of one hand on the centre of his/her chest.
  3. Place the heel of the other hand on top of the first hand and lace your fingers together.
  4. Align your body so that your shoulders are directly above your hands. Keep your arms straight.
  5. Push hard and fast with your hands to administer compressions. Compressions should be at least 5cm deep, and delivered at a rate of between 100-120 compressions per minute or 2 compressions per second. Use your body weight to help administer the compressions. Check that you’re allowing the chest to rise completely between compressions.
  6. Continue administering compressions until you see obvious signs of life, such as breathing, or until medical personnel arrive at the scene. If you become too exhausted, ask another willing bystander to take over. 

If you would like to learn more about how to do CPR correctly, or are interested in other areas of emergency response training, enrol in a course with Wilson Medic One. 

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