Life-Saving CPR: Are Your Skills up to Date?


If CPR is performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, a person’s chance of survival can double or even triple. Dr. Troy Wiedenbeck, cardiologist with the Renown Institute for Heart & Vascular Health, explains how you can be ready to perform CPR in case of an emergency.

According to the American Heart Association, over 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in the U.S., highlighting the importance of CPR to everyone, not just medical personnel. Most people do not have a cardiac arrest at a hospital or fire station, they have it going about their everyday lives. And when an individual suffers a heart attack outside of a hospital, their survival greatly depends on receiving CPR from a bystander. But the recommendations on how to deliver that life-saving measure has evolved over the past decade. We asked Troy Wiedenbeck, MD, cardiologist with the Renown Institute for Heart & Vascular Health, to help bring our skills up to date.

First off, how do you know when someone is experiencing cardiac arrest?

The signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest are immediate and drastic, including:

  • Sudden collapse
  • No pulse
  • Not breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

And sometimes, patients can experience symptoms before they go into cardiac arrest, such as fatigue, fainting, blackouts, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath or vomiting.

Many of us know CPR as both mouth-to-mouth and pumps to the chest, but the rule now is hands-only. Can you explain the change?

CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Hands-only CPR is exactly what the name says — it’s CPR without mouth-to-mouth.

Using your hands only is now recommended by the American Heart Association. So if you see someone suddenly collapse, it’s recommended to call 9-1-1 and push hard and fast in the center of chest. Doing so will try to get blood flowing back to the brain, lungs and other organs for people who are suffering from cardiac arrest.


So when should hands-only CPR be performed? Are there times mouth-to-mouth should still be used?

Hands-only CPR is recommended for teens and adults that may have gone into cardiac arrest and is shown to be just as effective as mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions.

As with any serious medical condition, it’s important to act fast. First, call 9-1-1 and then start chest compressions right away. If you perform CPR on someone within the first few minutes, it can double or triple their chance of survival.

Keep in mind, for infants and children younger than 12 years old, regular CPR with mouth-to-mouth as well as chest compressions is still recommended.

And what are the basics of hands-only CPR?

Hands-only CPR is just two simple steps. If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse:

  1. Call 911 so care providers can begin to respond. When calling 911, be specific about your location, especially if you are calling from a mobile phone. Knowing the street address, building, floor and closest entry point can save precious time for emergency responders. Answering the dispatcher’s questions will ensure help arrives fast at the correct location.
  2. Push hard and fast in the center of the chest. The goal during CPR is 100 to 120 compressions per minute, about the same tempo as the song “Stayin’ Alive,” “Thriller,” “Don’t Stop Believin’” or “It’s My Life.”

For the placement of your hands, it’s also important to remember to put the heel of your hand on the center of their chest and place the other hand on top. Push down on their chest at least two inches. It may seem severe at the time, but pushing this hard can truly save a life.

Continue performing compressions as long as possible. If you fatigue, have someone take over compressions, of possible, and take turns until medical help arrives.

Governor Brian Sandoval signed a bill in May requiring guidelines-based CPR training in order to graduate high school, making Nevada the 37th state with this legislation. After the law is in place for the 2017-18 school year, all high school graduates will know how to perform CPR.

For information on a CPR course in Reno, please contact REMSA at 775-858-5700.