Why are chest compressions so important in CPR?
CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is the combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths used when a victim has a cardiac arrest.
Recently, there has been more emphasis on ‘hands-only CPR‘ and the importance of delivering high-quality chest compressions. Members of the general public may only be taught hands-only CPR, instead of the traditional rescue breath and chest compression combination.
So why are chest compressions so important in CPR? And why are we prioritising them over rescue breaths?
The evidence shows that high-quality chest compressions are the most important component of effective CPR. In the minutes following a cardiac arrest, the body has a ‘store’ of oxygen in the blood. Therefore rescue breaths may not be necessary for the first few minutes. Chest compressions are vital to ensure this oxygen is ‘pushed’ around the body and keeps the brain and other vital organs alive.
There is also evidence that bystanders are less willing to perform rescue breaths. This may impact on their decision not to intervene in an emergency and it may mean that the victim does not receive any CPR at all.
Removing rescue breaths makes bystanders much more likely to begin chest compressions, this will buy time until the arrival of Emergency Medical Services or other trained responders.
Once EMS arrive, rescue breaths will be initiated using a bag-valve-mask or invasive airway.