Transcript: Near-Death Experiences

The good news: millions of Americans know how to perform CPR. The bad news: when confronted with an apparent victim of cardiac arrest, most bystanders won't do it because it includes mouth-to-mouth breathing.

Now Dr. Gordon Ewy, director of the University of Arizona's Sarver Heart Center, is championing a new form of CPR called cardio-cerebral resuscitation, or CCR, which focuses on rapid, forceful chest compressions, about 100 per minute, minus the mouth to mouth. "Mouth to mouth inflates the lungs, but it's not the lungs that need oxygen, it's the heart and the brain," says Ewy. "Chest compressions alone will help save those organs."

The Sarver researchers have developed two separate CCR protocols. Bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest are urged to perform chest compressions until help arrives. Paramedics are to attempt CCR for two minutes, before they use a defibrillator. Several Arizona fire departments have adopted the new approach. An analysis of that data shows survival rates have nearly tripled.

Current American Heart Association and American Red Cross guidelines do recommend compression-only CPR for anyone who is unwilling or unable to provide mouth to mouth. The AHA also encourages emergency dispatchers to give instructions for compression-only CPR to bystanders at the scene of a presumed cardiac arrest. "People want to do the right thing," says Ewy, "and we are giving them an easier way to do the right thing."