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Medical Minutes

Hands-only CPR saves lives


Each year more than 375,000 people die of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The only hope of survival for these individuals is immediate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and early defibrillation, which shocks the heart back into a normal rhythm. According to the American Heart Association, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of survival fall 7 to 10 percent every minute without CPR and defibrillation. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of victims receive CPR before medical crews alive.

To help improve the rate of bystander CPR, the American Heart Association (AHA) has introduced Compression-only CPR (also called hands-only CPR) for the untrained layperson. The AHA decision was driven by a growing body of research showing that bystanders are more likely to perform compression-only CPR on strangers and it is easier and more effective than conventional CPR for the untrained public. With 88 percent of cardiac arrests occurring in the home, it is a good chance the life you are saving is a family member.

The American Medical Association found that bystanders who applied hands-only CPR were able to boost survival to 34 percent, up from 18 percent and the number of bystanders willing to intervene rose by more than 12 percent with the new hands-only guidelines.

Statistically, the earlier CPR is initiated, the greater the chances of survival. Without oxygen, permanent brain damage can result in as little as four minutes, with death following soon after. However, the immediate delivery of CPR, even by an untrained bystander, can protect and sustain a victim until skilled medical assistance arrives.

Just calling 911 and waiting for help can cost a life. Bystanders who witness a sudden collapse of an adult should notify emergency medical personnel and then provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest with minimal interruptions. Here are the steps you can follow to help save a life:

  • Call 911,
  • Put the person on his or her back on a firm surface,
  • Kneel beside patient and place hands, overlapping, in the center of the chest and push with straight arms.
  • Push hard, compressing the chest about 2 inches.
  • Push fast at a rate of about 100 compressions per minute or to the beat of the Bee Gee’s song, “Staying Alive.”
  • Continue chest compressions until there are signs of chest movement or until emergency personnel take over.

When it comes to saving lives, Portneuf Medical Center is committed to providing quality care in our emergency department. We are also committed to supporting quality field emergency care in the community. We hope to achieve a continuity of excellence in emergency care from the minute 911 is called until that individual is admitted to our emergency department.

Join Portneuf Medical Center in recognizing National CPR AED Awareness Week today through Saturday by participating in various activities throughout the week, including Walk with a Doc on Tuesday at the Portneuf Greenway and a Hands-only CPR demonstration at Costco on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In those unfortunate moments when a loved one or a stranger is in need, handsonly CPR can make the difference between life and death.


To find a physician, please call Portneuf Medical Center’s Physician Referral Line at 1-877-721-6673.

Dr. Curtis Sandy is a board-certified emergency medicine physician. He serves as the EMS Director for Portneuf Medical Center and is the Medical Director for Bannock County Ambulance District and Associate Medical Director for LifeFlight Network. He has completed a mini-fellowship in out-of-hospital resuscitation through the Resuscitation Academy at Seattle/ King County Medic One.