Register for training: CPR, BLS, ACLS, PALS - Virginia, MD, DC
Home » Heart Center Blog » Compression Only CPR

Compression Only CPR

Compression Only CPR

There have been 2 studies released in the last month in The New England Journal of Medicine that focus on the benefits of “Compression Only” or “Hands Only CPR”. In an effort to clear up any confusion I will attempt to answer the most common questions I am faced with regarding “Compression Only” CPR during a Heart Center CPR class.
1. What is “Compression Only” CPR?
Answer: Think of Compression Only CPR as the same as regular CPR but without the mouth-to-mouth portion. All rescuers have to do is call 911, check for breathing, and then start compressions.
2. Is it better than regular CPR?
Answer: No, it is not better but it does provide a great alternative to traditional CPR if someone has never taken a class before or they cannot remember what to do. In the most recent study patients who received compression only CPR had the same rate of survival as those patients receiving traditional CPR.
3. What are the benefits of “Compression Only CPR”?
Answer: First, when someone collapses from cardiac arrest there is usually some drool, blood, or vomit around the victims mouth which can understandably make a would be rescuer reluctant to provide mouth-to-mouth. What researchers found is that bystanders trained in CPR were not using their training because they were afraid of the mouth-to-mouth contact and potential exposure to bacteria and viruses. “Compression Only” CPR removes this barrier to implementation of CPR by removing the requirement that the rescuer provide mouth-to-mouth ventilations. The theory is that by removing the requirement for mouth-to-mouth more people will be willing to get involved and more victims of cardiac arrest will receive the CPR they desperately need.
Second, compressions are the most important part of CPR. Breathing helps too but not nearly as much as compressions. Picture a Windex bottle you haven’t used in a long time. You have to squeeze it and squeeze it before it starts shooting out any Windex right? Well that’s exactly how the heart works during CPR. You have to pump and pump on the Heart to get it to move any blood around but if you stop your compressions for more than 10 seconds you lose all the progress you have made and the Heart turns right back into that old unused Windex Bottle. Even really good CPR only moves about 15% of the blood your heart normally pumps. Research has shown that even brief interruptions in compressions can significantly reduce the effectiveness of CPR thereby lowering a patient’s chance of survival. This is where the second benefit of “Compression Only” CPR comes into play. By not stopping my compressions to give breaths I don’t risk losing all the good squeeze and blood flow I have built up from doing continuous compressions.
Finally, when someone collapses from cardiac arrest there is still oxygen in their blood. Researchers now believe that for about the first 5 minutes of cardiac arrest no other oxygen is needed.
4. How does this new information effect what I learned in the past about CPR?

Answer: If you have taken a CPR class in the last five years you know everything you need to know about CPR. “Compression Only” CPR is great but it doesn’t replace traditional CPR that requires mouth-to-mouth. Proof of this can be seen in that nurses, doctors, and paramedic still perform ventilations when they perform CPR.
5. What about CPR for infants and children?
Answer: Another problem with “Hands Only” CPR is that it is not appropriate for children or infants. Kids still must receive mouth-to-mouth during CPR.

I hope this helps explain a little about these new changes to CPR. While I believe strongly that “Compression Only” CPR is great and will save lives I also feel strongly that excellent hands-on instruction by an experienced CPR instructor cannot be overlooked as a key step in the chain of survival. CPR classes also cover many other very important topics like how to relieve choking and how to use an AED. For more information on CPR or to sign up for a class please visit

Recent Posts




View More

Journals & Links