Chest Compressions Key to Survival in Cardiac Arrest Victims

A middle-aged man collapses in his home after complaining of chest pains. After calling 9-1-1, his wife is instructed to begin Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or CPR.

In years past, the operator on the other line would have told the woman to practice the ABCs of CPR—Airway, Breathing, Compressions.

But after studying efficacy data, the American Heart Association has now changed the order to C-A-B—Compressions, Airway, Breathing.

“The studies showed that there was actually a decrease in survival when CPR was stopped,” said Steven Von Gonten, clinical manager, Scott & White EMS. “The object is to just keep doing [compressions].”

In the first few minutes of a cardiac arrest, victims will have oxygen remaining in their lungs and bloodstream. So starting CPR with chest compressions can pump that blood to the victim’s brain and hear t sooner, according to the AHA.

Research shows rescuers who started CPR using the A-B-C method took 30 seconds longer to begin chest compressions than rescuers who began with chest compressions.


The change in the sequence applies to adults, children and infants, but not newborns.

Because of the modifications to the CPR guidelines, Scott & White EMS has implemented a protocol that their first responders will no longer stop to intubate a patient who was in cardiac arrest.

“Once we get somebody on the chest, we don’t interrupt them until we get a pulse back or we decide that our efforts are being terminated in the field,” Von Gonten said. “We do, however, put them on oxygen so that some air is being pushed into their lungs.”

For more information about the new CPR guidelines, visit www.heart.org.

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Jessa McClure holds a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, where she is currently an adviser for student publications. She has been a writer in the health care field since 2009.

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Chest Compressions Key to Survival in Cardiac Arrest Victims