Hoping to encourage more bystanders to engage in cardiopulmonary respiration, the American Heart Association released new guidelines for the procedure, advising chest-compression-only CPR for adults who suffer a sudden cardiac incident. However, the change, does not apply to children or drowning victims.

The new guidelines were developed based on three studies published last year that found victims who received CPR were more likely to survive if they received CPR, and the CPR technique — chest compression only, or chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration — didn’t matter.

“Even if [a person] has not been trained in CPR [he or she] can still save a life,” said Dr. Michael Sayre, an emergency medicine professor at Ohio State University and the lead author on the writing team that developed the new guidelines. “If you see someone in distress call 911 and start pushing hard and fast on the victim’s chest,” he added, summarizing the new guidelines.

Aquatics experts say operators should note the new recommendations but refrain from making any changes to their policies.

“Hands-only is not for drowning resuscitation, for children or adolescents,” said Dr. Steve Beerman, Chair Medical Committee, International Life Saving Federation. “Traditional CPR, with ventilation, is needed for drowning [victims], children and adolescent resuscitation. Drowning cardiac arrest is usually due to a lack on oxygen and restoring oxygen by providing ventilation is an important part of drowning and other injury resuscitation. The AHA statement was clear on this; however, media reports focused on the ‘hands only’ part of the statement.”

According to David Markenson, M.D., FAAP, EMT-P, Chair, American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid, Aquatics, Safety and Preparedness, the new AHA recommendations bring the AHA in line with Red Cross recommendations.

“For pool operators, a lifeguard acting in a professional capacity would be expected to perform the full level of assistance,” said Dr. Markenson. “A drowning victim will always be better served with artificial respiration and compressions.”

The AHA changes come in advance of regularly scheduled reviews. Unless there are new research findings precipitating another change, Dr. Sayre said the next update won’t happen until 2010.