There is very little data in this area however you are highly unlikely to do harm. One study has shown that patients who were defibrillated and had immediate CPR for 2 minutes after the shock, regardless of whether a pulse was present or not, were no more likely to have complications. In addition, it is recommended in paediatric resuscitation and common practice in critical care settings for CPR to be given to patients who have a slow heart rate. NO adverse effects have been reported. Based on the available evidence, it appears that the fear of doing harm by giving chest compressions to some who has no signs of life, but has a beating heart, is unfounded.

The guidelines now recommend that full CPR be given to all those requiring resuscitation. What about victims who may not be breathing but have a pulse?

To determine the need for only rescue breathing you would need to be able to check for a pulse. There is reasonable evidence that rescuers are no more likely to be able to correctly determine if a pulse is present than simply tossing a coin. Accordingly Resuscitation councils all around the world removed the pulse check in 2000. Epidemiological data would suggest that the vast majority of victims requiring resuscitation will be in cardiac arrest – thus requiring full CPR. Furthermore only about half of the victims requiring CPR get any resuscitation before an ambulance arrives. Thus it was considered of greater benefit overall that anyone who is not responsive and not breathing normally should be given CPR rather than not receiving any compressions because the rescuer thought the victim had a pulse. This is very much the case as there is no reliable way for the rescuer to detect a pulse. COMPRESSIONS ARE VITAL.

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