Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a series of steps to help a person whose breathing or heart has stopped. CPR helps pump blood to the body when the heart cannot do so.
CPR is given when a person has stopped breathing. This may happen for many reasons, such as:
The outcome varies. It depends on the cause and how soon CPR was started. After the heart has stopped, a normal heartbeat may not come back.
The person is likely to die if CPR is not started right away. Problems from CPR may include fracture of the ribs, broken teeth, infections, and puncture of the lung.
Check for safety at the scene. Tap the person and ask: “Are you OK?” If the person does not respond, follow these steps.
The length of time for CPR varies. It depends on the cause and how fast medical help arrives.
The person is unconscious when CPR is given. CPR does not hurt. Some people may have soreness in the chest after CPR.
The emergency team will help the person when they arrive.
After CPR, the person will need be checked at the hospital.
If the person is not breathing or responding:
American Heart Association
American Red Cross
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Adult basic life support. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/adult-basic-life-support-bls. Accessed September 28, 2021.
CPR steps. American Red Cross website. Available at: https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/cpr-steps. Accessed September 28, 2021.
Merchant R, Topjian A, et al. Part 1: executive summary: 2020 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. Circulation. 2020;142:S337–S357.
Part 3: Adult basic and advanced life support. 2020 American Heart Association guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://cpr.heart.org/en/resuscitation-science/cpr-and-ecc-guidelines/adult-basic-and-advanced-life-support. Accessed September 28, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 9/28/2021