Some countries have adopted compression-only CPR as the main method taught to the public, while other countries including Canada have not. All our courses teach you 30 compressions and 2 breaths in a cycle. So why the difference? Aren’t we all human?

CPR 30:2

In Canada the standard of CPR taught to everyone remains 30 compressions : 2 breaths and has been so for a long time. Is this a problem? Well, there was a worry about chest compressions being interrupted frequently to give breaths. When you’re doing compressions, you are pumping blood round the person’s body. Perhaps interrupting this to give breaths would reduce blood flow and maybe reduce the effectiveness of CPR. If that was true, then continuous compressions could be the better choice.
Before you read on, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Here ‘arrest’ means the person’s heart has stopped working.
To help us decide what to do in the best interests of the person needing CPR (and so what to teach you) smarter people then us do studies. Here are the main findings we need to look at:

  • In non-asphyxial arrest (eg: heart problems) continuous compressions are as effective as compressions that were interrupted for breaths
  • In contrast, in asphyxial arrest (eg: choking, drowning, anaphylaxis, asthma, etc.), ventilation improved outcomes

So for you, if you ever have to do CPR, doing both compressions and breaths is at least as good as compression only, and may be better depending on the cause of the problem.
Another recent  study was done in people found to have arrested, without looking at the cause (and you can read it here as well as finding the references for the statements above, if you like!).
The simplified version of their results is:

  • 9 out of 100 people who received continuous chest compression survived
  • 10 out of every 100 people who received chest compressions and breaths survived
  • So for that one person, it made a difference for sure.

What does that mean to you?

  • Stick to what you’ve been taught (30 compressions: 2 breaths) and if you haven’t had training recently, get some! If you were taught something different, we need to chat.
  • Don’t do what you see on TV (or YouTube) there are differences in teaching from one place to another.
  • The differences are pretty small – any CPR would still be better than no CPR. If you can’t do breaths for some reason, compression-only is OK. The Canadian Red Cross has a memo about that.
  • As we regularly teach in class, a lot of people who get CPR just don’t survive. If you ever have to do it and it doesn’t work, don’t beat yourself up about it. Be glad to know you gave them the best chance possible.