The Canadian Red Cross recognizes that compression-only CPR is an acceptable alternative for those who are unwilling, unable, untrained, or are no longer able to perform full CPR. In some cases, compression-only CPR is the preferred method for members of the public who witness an adult suddenly collapse. The issue has recently emerged based on research published in the journal Circulation and based on scientific evidence released from members of the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation (ILCOR).

Chest compressions pump the heart, circulating oxygen already in the person’s body. This makes compression-only CPR suitable for an adult who suddenly collapses. Compression-only CPR should not be used when the oxygen in the person’s body has likely been used up, such as with a drowning incident or when a respiratory emergency may have caused the cardiac arrest.

When an infant or child’s heart stops, it’s usually because of a respiratory emergency, such as choking or asthma, which use up their body’s oxygen, therefore they would require full CPR, including rescue breaths.

“Compression-only CPR is giving continuous chest compressions of approximately 100 compressions per minute, without giving rescue breaths,” says Rick Caissie, National Director, First Aid, Swimming & Water Safety.

The most important thing for Canadians to know right now is that the CPR they’ve been trained to perform is not “wrong.” All Canadian Red Cross CPR courses will continue to teach full CPR. Early CPR remains one of the most critical factors in surviving cardiac arrest. The basic steps remain the same:

  • Get help – call 911 to activate your local emergency medical system.
  • Start CPR to keep the blood flowing.

CPR is easy to learn and saves lives. Full CPR (cycles of chest compressions and rescue breaths) is still important to learn. It is critical to know what to do during an emergency. Red Cross first aid and CPR training can give people the skills and the confidence to act in an emergency. Find a course.