Local medical personnel say it's about time hands-only CPR is accepted

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Kayla Bunge
Saturday, April 5, 2008

Local emergency medical personnel are saying, “We told you so.”

The American Heart Association announced Monday that hands-only CPR works just as well as standard CPR for sudden cardiac arrest in adults.

It’s something they’ve known for years in Rock and Walworth counties.

Michael Kellum, director of Mercy-Walworth Hospital and Medical Center, said the announcement opens the door to training regular people to do hands-only CPR.

“Without a reputable national organization saying, ‘Yes, we can do this,’ there has been a roadblock,” he said.

The American Red Cross also has recognized hands-only CPR as a viable alternative to standard CPR. The Badger Chapter of the American Red Cross is one of the first in the nation to offer a training course for people to learn the procedure.

Hands-only CPR involves no mouth-to-mouth breathing. Instead, it requires continuous chest compressions at a rate of 100 per minute.

The idea is to keep the heart beating by pressing on the chest and keep blood moving to the brain.

“All we need to do is keep the brain and heart alive,” said John Kramer, chief of the Delavan Rescue Squad, the first organization to implement the procedure.

Researchers have known for years that hands-only CPR is effective. But because there was no broad statistical data available until recently, the American Heart Association wasn’t endorsing its use.

Kramer said a “groundswell” of information from emergency medical personnel across the country likely gave the organization cause to review its stance on the procedure.

“We only had few hundred cases to show what we were doing,” he said. “They wanted thousands. They wanted to make sure it really worked before they committed to it.”

Kellum said locally the survival rate for people in cardiac arrest has tripled since the introduction of hands-only CPR in early 2004. And that’s just with use by trained emergency medical personnel and first responders.

“No one knows what’s going to happen when you have laypeople starting to do this,” he said.

He anticipates survival rates will continue to increase.

Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, director of the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center, where the procedure was developed, said there’s no doubt the use of hands-only CPR will spread.

“This will go nationwide,” he said.

Kellum calls the American Heart Association’s announcement—and the American Red Cross’ plans to offer training courses—a bold step forward.

“It’s going to pay off immensely,” he said. “Now we have … a mechanism in place to actually implement this.”


The Badger Chapter of the American Red Cross is launching a new training program for hands-only CPR. For information about training, call (608) 227-1253.

Last updated: 9:01 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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