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CPR, without the mouth-to-mouth

For years, there has been a debate about the proper way to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on someone whose heart has stopped. Current recommendations from the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association say for adults, perform 30 chest compressions then apply two breaths.

Here's a good illustration of the procedure: http://depts.washington.edu/learncpr/quickcpr.html

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There has also been a debate for years about whether the breaths are necessary. There are two reasons for the debate: One is that animal studies have shown that in the time it takes to perform the procedure, critical blood flow to the brain is interrupted. The second is that many people are reluctant to put their mouths on a stranger.

Two studies just out in the New England Journal of Medicine find that compression-only CPR is as good or better than using the breaths. One study used EMS workers throughout the United States, and the other used the 911-like service in Sweden.

Neither the Red Cross nor the Heart Association has changed its recommendations. An editorial in the journal says it is time to reconsider. And at its annual meeting in November, the Heart Association is doing just that-and if it changes, the Red Cross will likely follow.

Meanwhile, it is good to remember that any CPR is better than none, and classes are available at, among other places, local chapters of the Red Cross and the Heart Association. Many urge that anyone who can take one should do so.