hands only cpr
Heart and Vascular

Hands-Only CPR: How it Can Save Someone’s Life

Jan 4 2023

If you have ever witnessed someone experiencing cardiac arrest, it can be just as scary for you as it is for them.

Cardiac arrest is a sudden malfunction of the heart, which causes an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeat, also called an arrhythmia, doesn’t allow the heart to do its job. This means it stops pumping blood to the brain, lungs and other organs in the body.

By understanding the warning signs of cardiac arrest and learning a simple two-step process, you can help be the difference between survival and death in this situation.

If you see someone who is experiencing cardiac arrest, your first step should always be to call 911 and get medical professionals on the way. Signs you should look for will vary from person to person. However, in general, the following are signs a person may be experiencing cardiac arrest.

  • Grabbing at their chest
  • Suddenly losing consciousness
  • Stopping breathing completely or gasping for air

Receiving CPR greatly increases a person’s chances of surviving sudden cardiac arrest.

But it’s not just trained professionals who can jump in to perform CPR. There are simple, lifesaving steps anyone can take to help by performing hands-only CPR.

In the past, performing CPR meant checking the airway and doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation in addition to chest compressions. Experts now advise chest compressions alone, also called hands-only CPR, can keep the heart pumping and maintain blood flow for a few minutes until emergency personnel arrives.

In performing hands-only CPR, always call 911 first.

Then, immediately begin chest compressions. If using a cell phone, it may be possible to perform CPR and receive coaching from the 911 dispatcher at the same time.

Hands-only CPR is recommended to be performed on adults and teens. Press hard and fast in the center of the chest with your full body weight. Ideally, compressions should be 100 to 120 beats per minute.

Conventional CPR is more involved, as it includes compressions and mouth-to-mouth breaths. This is still the recommended approach to be performed on children.

According to the American Heart Association, there are three main reasons someone may be hesitant to perform CPR.

  1. Not recognizing CPR is needed. If a person is unconscious and breathing abnormally, even if it’s a suspected drug overdose, begin CPR.
  2. You’re not trained and you worry you might hurt the person. But it’s better to help than do nothing. Don’t be afraid to apply pressure.
  3. Assisting in emergency situations can be stressful. This is especially true for family members.

When it comes to cardiac arrest, don’t hesitate! Call 911 and then push hard and fast with your hands. These two steps can be the difference between life and death. 

Learn about the heart and vascular services we provide at Mercy Health. 

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