New cardiopulmonary resuscitation guidelines in the American Heart Association's 2010 revision emphasize chest compressions over assisted breathing, according to the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. The steps to follow for CPR became chest compressions, checking the airway and breathing, or CAB. Prior to 2010, the steps were airway, breathing and compressions, or ABC.
The change to the CPR guidelines reflects recent data showing that victims of cardiac arrest need their blood flowing again but can wait a few minutes before needing air, explains About.com. If emergency medical providers spend time finding a CPR mask and making a proper seal around the mouth before breathing, that delays necessary chest compressions to get the heart beating again. Performing chest compressions first gets the patient's blood circulating while only minimally delaying ventilation.
Studies suggest that improving the quality of chest compressions and switching to a one-shock protocol makes CPR more effective, states the Journal of Emergency Medical Services. CPR providers also don't need to look, listen and feel for breathing when a quick assessment of the patient to determine if they are breathing is enough. To further minimize delay before starting chest compressions, the AHA guidelines suggest that providers wait only 10 seconds when checking a patient's pulse. If there is no pulse in that time, they should begin chest compressions immediately.