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Dispatchers for the 911 emergency contact system are giving new instructions to callers assisting victims of cardiac arrest. No longer directing lay rescuers to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, dispatchers instead advise chest compressions only.


The new policy on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) stems from growing evidence that trying to instruct untrained bystanders at a scene via telephone on performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation wastes valuable time that would be better spent on chest compressions.

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A growing body of research suggests that rescue breathing doesn't increase an adult's survival chances compared with chest compressions, which move blood through the body. Also, bystanders may be reluctant to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a stranger, or they may spend too much time checking the victim's airway and positioning the head.


Under the changes, 911 dispatchers will instruct bystanders to perform CPR by continuously pumping the person's chest as many as 400 times before providing any rescue breathing. The new policy doesn't change how emergency personnel will perform CPR and isn't intended to discourage people trained in CPR from performing rescue breathing.


The new policy applies only to adults in cardiac arrest, not to children. Because most children experience cardiopulmonary arrest from a breathing problem rather than a cardiac problem, rescue breathing is still appropriate for them.


The National Academies of Emergency Dispatch (NAED) made the change official on March 15. For more information, visit the NAED Web site at