New American Heart Association CPR guidelines focus on chest compressions

New CPR guidelines

The American Heart Association has changed the guidelines for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The new process is called C-A-B. Here are the steps you need to know:

  • Compressions. Push hard and fast on the center of the victim’s chest.
  • Airway. Tilt the victim’s head and chin back to open the airway.
  • Breathing. Give mouth-to-mouth rescue breaths.

If you have no training, are not familiar with the steps of CPR or are hesitant to perform mouth-to-mouth, there are still ways to help. The American Heart Association recommends focusing on compressions by performing Hands-Only CPR until trained personnel arrive. If you do have training, rescue breaths should be performed in addition to compressions.

The American Heart Association reviews and updates CPR guidelines every five years. The new CPR steps is the main change, but there are other changes. Visit for the complete guideline.

In the next few months Kristy Wempe-Bellinger will have to reprint instructional materials, read up on new science and organize new training sessions.

But the effort’s worth it. These simple tasks could help save thousands of lives.

It’s all part of a transition that health and safety agencies are going through across the country to comply with new guidelines for performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Last month, the American Heart Association released its 2010 Guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Why the change

The heart association has determined that the highest survival rates among adults with cardiac arrest are reported when the patient receives compressions first.

Wempe-Bellinger, health and safety director for the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross, said this is because blood circulates through the body sooner, which is critical for people who have had a heart attack.

“The main reason for CPR is to keep oxygenated blood circulated to the organs,” Wempe-Bellinger said. “Starting with compressions helps this process.”

In the old sequence, compressions were delayed while the responder opens the airway to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The heart association says most victims of cardiac arrest do not receive CPR from bystanders. However, if people could save lives by starting with chest compressions instead of mouth-to-mouth, that might encourage more rescuers to begin CPR.

Wempe-Bellinger said lots of people are hesitant to do CPR for fear of catching a disease through contact with another person’s mouth.

“I think the change will empower more people to do something,” Wempe-Bellinger said. “Doing something is always better than doing nothing, even if they aren’t trained.”


Wempe-Bellinger said the local Red Cross holds 12 classes a month in CPR. She said 3,000 people were trained last year. The agency’s new training will go into effect next spring.

“It will take time to get the new information into materials and fully implemented,” Wempe-Bellinger said. “We haven’t really had a chance to look at all of the research yet and determine how we will implement it.”

The staff at Lawrence Memorial Hospital will go through a similar transition. Scott Dieker, education coordinator, said because patients have such a variety of conditions, LMH staffers already perform resuscitation procedures based on a patient’s need.

“The guidelines are mainly just solidifying procedures that the medical community is already doing,” Dieker said.

While the new changes will impact medical staff, they will have a bigger impact on the everyday person.

“The change … is revolutionary,” Dieker said. “We’ve been taught the old way since I was a kid.”