Study Deflates The Case For Cpr Mouth-To-Mouth May Do More Harm Than Good

TUESDAY, SEPT. 16, 1997

The medical establishment may be preparing to kiss mouth-to-mouth resuscitation goodbye.

In a special report to be published today, an American Heart Association committee suggests that the mouth-to-mouth component of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, may sometimes do more harm than good.

The committee calls for a national study to assess the procedure.

It is a bit embarrassing for scientists to be unsure about something that has been promoted for nearly three decades as a first-aid mainstay.

“This (heart disease) is the No. 1 cause of death in the country, and we don’t yet know the best way to go about treating it, primarily for lack of funding and research,” said Dr. Lance Becker, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and chairman of the Heart Association panel.

The panel’s questions concern dadults suffering cardiac arrest, and the report stressed that mouth-to-mouth ventilation remains critically important for children and for adults who suffer airway obstruction, drowning or respiratory problems.

There are several reasons to question mouth-to-mouth, Becker said. Even when done correctly, the procedure can force air into the stomach of the person under treatment, and that can cause regurgitation, sending fluid into the lungs.

Another drawback to doing mouth-to-mouth is that it detracts from the ability to do chest compressions, which may be the most valuable part of CPR for most people who collapse from a heart attack.

Also, Becker said, there is the “yuck factor” that causes many people to hesitate before putting their lips to the mouth of a stranger who has collapsed.

An estimated 350,000 Americans die of cardiac arrest each year, and only about 30 percent are given CPR, according to the Heart Association.


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