Cardiac patients in hospitals have a better chance of surviving a heart attack if rescuers use a form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) that applies pressure to the abdomen as well as the chest, a new study has found.

During the six-month study conducted at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Paterson, N.J., 135 resuscitation attempts were made on 103 patients, according to the report published in the Jan. 15 Journal of the American Medical Association. About 25 percent of the patients receiving abdominal compressions survived and were later discharged from the hospital, compared with a 7 percent survival rate for patients receiving only CPR.

Abdominal compressions work by increasing pressure throughout the circulatory system and improving blood flow to vital organs, the study's authors say. Standard CPR involves compressing the chest to improve blood flow from the heart and clearing breathing passages.

"We showed increased survival in a select group of in-hospital patients," said Jeffrey B. Sack, a cardiologist at the University of California at Los Angeles and an author of the study. "We now need to expand the study to include out-of-hospital patients."

If future studies with more patients show similar results, the evidence may warrant a change in CPR guidelines, Sack said. Although the abdominal technique in the study was performed with two people, he said, it could easily be done with one person. One hand would remain on the chest while the other was placed on the abdomen over the belly button. The compressions would be administered using a seesaw or rocking-horse motion. All other CPR procedures would remain the same.