Skip to main content

Need to know: Hands-only CPR has big impact on survival

With two hands and a little knowledge, anyone can be a hero.

Even without extensive training or CPR certification, hands-only CPR can potentially keep an adult or teenager who has experienced cardiac arrest alive long enough for first responders to arrive.

Christina Freeman, coordinator for the Chest Pain Center at Greenville Health System and a cardiology nurse for 30 years, said spreading the word about hands-only CPR can empower people to help.

“CPR stands for cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, which involves a breathing component,” Freeman said. “Hands-only CPR makes it easier for the bystander to do. Starting CPR as early as possible is the most significant piece of having the person survive.”

Freeman said 326,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year outside of a hospital.

“Without early intervention, usually 90 percent will die,” she said. “Hands-only CPR has shown that we can double or triple the survival rate.”

In the event of cardiac arrest, bystanders should first call 911, Freeman said. Then the bystander can begin chest compressions, continuing until help arrives.

“That person still has enough oxygen in their bloodstream that if you simply circulate it, that can buy us the time we need for emergency help to come,” Freeman said.

But it is important to note that this method is not recommended for the small bodies of infants and children.

“It is for teens and adults only,” Freeman said. “A small child or infant has less volume of blood, so they have less oxygen to actually circulate.”

In addition, Freeman said the most common causes of cardiac arrest in children are choking and drowning, cases in which there has already been a struggle to breathe, which will result in less oxygen in the blood.

If an automatic external defibrillator is available, untrained bystanders should know that they can still help.

“They are beginner-proof,” Freeman said. “It tells you step by step what to do. ”

Hands-only CPR can be learned and practiced through a low-cost kit that is available through the American Heart Association at The kit comes with a DVD and an inflatable Annie for practicing chest compressions.

“I have known people who didn’t have the Annie who would open the stitching on a teddy bear and insert a water bottle,” Freeman said. “Anything is better than nothing.”

While everyone can benefit from a CPR course, it is especially important for parents and caregivers to be trained in infant and child CPR since the breathing component is critical.

“When you are out in the world and a baby goes down, it is a very scary thing,” Freeman said. “But if you’ve had some training, you would be amazed at how quickly that training kicks in.”

Know this…

Hands-only CPR for adults and teens consists of two steps: call 911 and then push hard and fast in the center of chest (to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive”) until help arrives. Watch it in action at

Find more at

Looking for things to do with kids in Greenville-Spartanburg? More stories about family health? Visit