When giving CPR, stick to standard chest compressions

Research we're watching

Published: May, 2021

If you're a fan of TV medical dramas, perhaps you've seen a doctor try to restart a patient's stopped heart with a single, firm whack to the chest. But this technique, known as a precordial thump, is neither effective nor safe outside the hospital, according to a report in the Feb. 11, 2021 issue of Resuscitation.

Researchers examined data from 23 studies that looked at the effectiveness of the precordial thump and two other uncommon cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) techniques. One, known as percussion pacing, entails less forceful, repeated strikes to the chest. The other, called "cough CPR," is a misnomer because coughing is impossible if you're unconscious. The idea (which is periodically perpetuated on social media) is to cough forcefully and repeatedly during a heart attack to prevent a cardiac arrest.

They found no evidence to support these alternative techniques in people experiencing cardiac arrest outside a hospital. Instead, the best strategy is hands-only CPR by a bystander, which involves pushing hard and fast on the center of the chest. This keeps blood circulating until the heart can be shocked back into a normal rhythm with an automated external defibrillator or other definitive therapy can be delivered.

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