Highlights of the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC

imageThe 2010 American Heart Association (AHA) Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) are based on an international evidence evaluation process that involved hundreds of international resuscitation scientists and experts who evaluated, discussed, and debated thousands of peer-reviewed publications.


This section summarizes major issues in the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC, primarily those in basic life support (BLS) that affect all rescuers, whether healthcare providers or lay rescuers. The 2005 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC emphasized the importance of high-quality chest compressions (compressing at an adequate rate and depth, allowing complete chest recoil after each compression, and minimizing interruptions in chest compressions). Studies published before and since 2005 have demonstrated that (1) the quality of chest compressions continues to require improvement, although implementation of the 2005 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC has been associated with better CPR quality and greater survival; (2) there is considerable variation in survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest across emergency medical services (EMS) systems; and (3) most victims of out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest do not receive any bystander CPR. The changes recommended in the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC attempt to address these issues and also make recommendations to improve outcome from cardiac arrest through a new emphasis on post–cardiac arrest care.

Continued Emphasis on High-Quality CPR

The 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC once again emphasize the need for high-quality CPR, including:

  • A compression rate of at least 100/min (a change from “approximately” 100/min)
  • A compression depth of at least 2 inches (5 cm) in adults and a compression depth of at least one third of the anterior-posterior diameter of the chest in infants and children
    (approximately 1.5 inches [4 cm] in infants and 2 inches [5 cm] in children).
    Note that the range of 1½ to 2 inches is no longer used for adults, and the absolute depth specified for children and infants is deeper than in previous versions of the AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC.
  • Allowing for complete chest recoil after each compression
  • Minimizing interruptions in chest compressions
  • Avoiding excessive ventilation

There has been no change in the recommendation for a compression-to-ventilation ratio of 30:2 for single rescuers of adults, children, and infants (excluding newly born infants). The 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC continue to recommend that rescue breaths be given in approximately 1 second. Once an advanced airway is in place, chest compressions can be continuous (at a rate of at least 100/min) and no longer cycled with ventilations. Rescue breaths can then be provided at about 1 breath every 6 to 8 seconds (about 8 to 10 breaths per minute). Excessive ventilation should be avoided.

A Change From A-B-C to C-A-B

The 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC recommend a change in the BLS sequence of steps from A-B-C (Airway, Breathing, Chest compressions) to C-A-B (Chest compressions,
Airway, Breathing) for adults, children, and infants (excluding the newly born
; see Neonatal Resuscitation section). This fundamental change in CPR sequence will require reeducation of everyone who has ever learned CPR, but the consensus of the authors and experts involved in the creation of the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC is that the benefit will justify the effort. Why: The vast majority of cardiac arrests occur in adults, and the highest survival rates from cardiac arrest are reported among patients of all ages who have a witnessed arrest and an initial rhythm of ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT). In these patients, the critical initial elements of BLS are chest compressions and early defibrillation. In the A-B-C sequence, chest compressions are often delayed while the responder opens the airway to give mouth-to-mouth breaths, retrieves a barrier device, or gathers and assembles ventilation equipment. By changing the sequence to C-A-B, chest compressions will be initiated sooner and the delay in ventilation should be minimal (ie, only the time required to deliver the first cycle of 30 chest compressions, or approximately 18 seconds; when 2 rescuers are present for resuscitation of the infant or child, the delay will be even shorter). Most victims of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest do not receive any bystander CPR. There are probably many reasons for this, but one impediment may be the A-B-C sequence, which starts with the procedures that rescuers find most difficult, namely, opening the airway and delivering breaths. Starting with chest compressions might encourage more rescuers to begin CPR. Basic life support is usually described as a sequence of actions, and this continues to be true for the lone rescuer. Most healthcare providers, however, work in teams, and team members typically perform BLS actions simultaneously. For example, one rescuer immediately initiates chest compressions while another rescuer gets an automated external defibrillator (AED) and calls for help, and a third rescuer opens the airway and provides ventilations. Healthcare providers are again encouraged to tailor rescue actions to the most likely cause of arrest. For example, if a lone healthcare provider witnesses a victim suddenly collapse, the provider may assume that the victim has had a primary cardiac arrest with a shockable rhythm and should immediately activate the emergency response system, retrieve an AED, and return to the victim to provide CPR and use the AED. But for a presumed victim of asphyxial arrest such as drowning, the priority would be to provide chest compressions with rescue breathing for about 5 cycles (approximately 2 minutes) before activating the emergency response system. Two new parts in the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC are Post–Cardiac Arrest Care and Education, Implementation, and Teams. The importance of post–cardiac arrest care is emphasized by the addition of a new fifth link in the AHA ECC Adult Chain of Survival (Figure 1). See the sections Post–Cardiac Arrest Care and Education, Implementation, and Teams in this publication for a summary of key recommendations contained in these new parts.


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Highlights of the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC

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