Save Your Breath and Save a Life with Hands Only CPR

Laypersons performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should concentrate on the chest compression rather than breathing for the stricken person.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med 2010; 363:423-433) looked at the role of rescue breathing in CPR performed by laypersons to see if chest compression alone would improve survival rates when compared with instructions to provide chest compression plus rescue breathing.

The authors concluded that “Dispatcher instruction consisting of chest compression alone did not increase the survival rate overall, although there was a trend toward better outcomes in key clinical subgroups. The results support a strategy for CPR performed by laypersons that emphasizes chest compression and minimizes the role of rescue breathing.”

Of the 1,941 patients included in the study, 981 were assigned to receive chest compression alone and 960 to receive chest compression plus rescue breathing. There was no significant difference between the two groups in terms of who survived.

There is something about rescue breathing — putting your lips on a complete stranger — that gives potential life-saving bystanders pause, so this is welcome news. It just might spur more good samaritans into action. It is also easier for 911 operators to coach hands-only CPR by phone.

The American Heart Association (AHA) says that less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. It is important to note that cardiac arrest is not the same thing as a heart attack, which occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. Cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic and causes the heart to stop beating.

If CPR is performed immediately after cardiac arrest, it can double or triple the victim’s chance of survival. The most effective rate for chest compressions is 100 per minute, which the AHA notes is the same rhythm as the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by the BeeGees.

If you would like to learn more about hands only CPR for adults, please visit the AHA’s The site includes a brief demonstration video on how to perform hands only CPR on an adult. You can also call 1-877-AHA-4CPR for more information.

There’s nothing tricky about it:

For information regarding CPR for children, visit: National Institutes for Health

Photo courtesy of


Lovely Devaya
Lovely Devaya7 years ago

Very helpful .. and thanks :)

Amber S.
Amber S7 years ago


Julie F.
Julie F7 years ago

thank you

Palina Asgeirsdottir

Thank you for this information. It's a good reminder!

Kay O.
Kay O7 years ago

As someone who renews her CPR credentials faithfully this
is interesting news. Thanks.

Donna W.
Donna W7 years ago

Is it me or did the kid not check the guy's pulse before whaling on his chest? He could be unconscious without being in cardiac arrest. If this is to be an educational video, they missed a step.

Beng Kiat Low
low beng kiat7 years ago


Cristiane P.
Cristiane P7 years ago

I had CPR trainning years ago - I think 2003 - I don't think I would feel secure enought to perform it in a situation like this. But well when needed I guess we remember everything I was once told! Great article! Thanks!

Ann Eastman
Ann Eastman7 years ago

Important information, and thanks for posting. My understanding is that an adult has sufficient oxygen in the respiratory system to support life for a while, but it doesn't do much good if the oxygen is not circulating through the body. The same is NOT true of children, hence the different recommended protocol.

K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.