Compression-only CPR: A simple life-saving skill we should all learn

This week’s guest blogger is Dr. Frank Martino, William Osler Health System’s Chief of Staff.

Did you know that Osler serves a population with one of the highest incidence of cardiac arrest in the province?

The reality is that 14 per cent of all cardiac arrests in Ontario happen in the Central West LHIN, with the majority of patients coming to our hospitals for care.

These men and women receive compassionate, life-saving care in our hospitals, supported by a cardiac team that is second-to-none. Among the hundreds of cardiac arrest cases we see every year, there is one from last November that stands out.

Why? Because the patient, who had collapsed at a coffee shop in Vaughan, was kept alive by a quick-thinking bystander who performed compression-only cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until EMS arrived and rushed the man to Brampton Civic where he underwent emergency angioplasty. The bystander stepped forward when others backed away – and saved this stranger’s life. The patient made a full recovery and is now back at home with his loved ones.

Compression-only CPR differs from the CPR you may remember in that it does not require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It is simple, easy to do and it gives people with no medical background the power to help a family member, a friend, or, as in the case above, even a complete stranger who may be experiencing a cardiac arrest.

When it comes to compression-only CPR, you only have to do two things:

  1. Call 911.
  2. Push hard and fast – about 100 uninterrupted chest presses per minute – on the middle of the person’s chest.

If you come across an adult who has unexpectedly collapsed, stopped breathing, does not have a pulse, or is unresponsive, don’t hesitate to start compression-only CPR immediately while waiting for paramedics.

It’s important to note, as well, that abnormal breathing (i.e. agonal breaths, gasping and snorting) may also be an early sign of cardiac arrest and should not be ignored or stop you from beginning CPR.

Let’s address a few misconceptions up front. You cannot kill someone by doing compression-only CPR and you cannot catch a communicable disease. What you can do is double – even triple – a person’s chance of survival!

The more people we can reach with this message, the better so be sure to watch and share this video of Osler Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Farrukh Hussain demonstrating this life-saving method.

Educating as many people as possible on compression-only CPR is one way we can live our Vision of patient-inspired health care without boundaries, sharing knowledge and skills beyond the walls of our hospitals.  Let’s all work together to spread the word – and save lives.


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