Video: New approach to CPR

By Robert Bazell Chief science and health correspondent
NBC News
updated 4/26/2005 7:36:37 PM ET 2005-04-26T23:36:37

Each year, 600,000 people die in the United States when their heart suddenly stops beating and professional help does not arrive in time. That's why for 40 years the Red Cross and the American Heart Association have been teaching citizens to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with a combination of 15 chest compressions then two breaths in the mouth.

But Dr. Gorden Ewy is out to prove that CPR — as it is done now — is a gigantic failure.

"What's at stake?" asks Ewy, director of the Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona. "Thousands of people's lives. Doing it right, advancing medicine. I mean, what's medicine all about?"

Ewy says the big problem with CPR as it is currently practiced is those breaths to the mouth, which interrupt chest compressions. During that interruption, he says, the critical flow of blood to the brain also gets interrupted.

And more important, surveys show most people won't blow into a stranger's mouth.

What's the right way to perform CPR? Ewy says it is simple, continuous chest compression — 100 times a minute — with no breaths.

Ewy has convinced the city of Tucson, Ariz., to start teaching classes with his new method. He not only persuaded the public in Tucson, he also convinced the fire department and the paramedics that his was the right way to do CPR.

"The paramedics in the field are reporting that it's an easier way to resuscitate code arrests and they are seeing a lot better response from the patients," saysJoe Gulotta, deputy chief of the Tucson Fire Department.

So far, the Red Cross and American Heart Association are staying with the old method.

"You know, there's a huge investment of 40 years of doing it that way," says Ewy. But he believes the world will eventually see things his way, and save a lot of lives.

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