New studies show successfully reviving someone without mouth-to-mouth is possible. Dr. John Kilgore is the medical director of the SSM Heart Institute in St. Louis. He says people are hesitant to do mouth-to-mouth for several reasons.

Kilgore says compressions only can save a life, but only in certain cases. If someone is suffering cardiac arrest due to drowning, suffocation, trauma or overdose, mouth-to-mouth is still necessary to get air into their lungs.

But he says in the case of a heart attack, victims usually already have air in their lungs. Keeping their blood circulating increases their chance of survival until emergency medical personnel arrive to take over. He reminds people to call 911 before performing CPR on a heart patient.

Two new studies say that “hands-only” chest compression is enough to save a life if someone is trying to administer CPR and wants to skip the mouth-to-mouth part. Hopefully this information will encourage bystanders to feel less panicked, more capable of using the simpler technique and not worry about the “yuck factor” of touching a stranger’s mouth.

According to the research, an estimated 310,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest outside hospitals or in emergency rooms. Only about six percent of those who are stricken outside a hospital survive. When someone collapses and stops breathing, many people panic and believe that phoning 911 is the best they can do to help. The larger of the two new studies reported survival rates of about 12 percent when bystanders did dispatcher-directed CPR, confirming earlier research that on-scene CPR can dramatically increase a victim’s odds of survival. Previous research has suggested that adults who need CPR get it only about one-quarter to one-third of the time when bystanders are around.

Jessica Machetta reports [Mp3, 1:20 min.]