Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a series of steps to help a person who is not responding and has stopped breathing. CPR helps deliver oxygen rich blood to the body tissue when the body is not able to do this on its own.
Reasons for Procedure
CPR is given to a person who is not responding and has stopped breathing. Reasons for this may include:
The outcome will depend on the initial cause and how soon effective CPR was started. Many people are unable to regain a normal heartbeat after it has stopped.
The goal of the CPR is to provide blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs until proper medical care can be given. The person is likely to die if CPR is not started immediately. Complications may include
fracture of the ribs, broken teeth, infections, and puncture of the lung.
People with weakened bones have a higher risk of bone fractures from CPR. However, there is a greater risk of death if CPR is delayed or not done correctly.
What to Do
Prior to Procedure
When you see someone collapse or find someone unconscious, immediately check to see if the person is responsive. Tap the victim and ask: “Are you OK?” If the victim is unresponsive, follow these steps.
If you are alone, call for emergency medical services away. If someone is with you, have that person call for emergency medical services right away and get the automatic external defibrillator (AED). An AED is a device that delivers electric shocks to the person's heart.
If the person is not breathing or only gasping, begin CPR by doing chest compressions:
Place the heel of 1 hand palm down on the chest with the other hand on top.
Straighten your arms and lock your elbows. Begin pressing down in a straight motion. The compressions should be at least 2 inches deep.
Push hard and fast at a rate of 100 compressions per minute.
Allow the chest to rise completely between compressions.
Avoid interruption between compressions.
If you are trained in CPR, give 2 rescue breaths after 30 compressions. To give rescue breaths:
Open the airway by placing 1 hand on the forehead and lifting the chin with your other hand.
Gently tilt the head backward. Pinch the person's nose and cover their mouth with yours.
Breathe twice into his mouth until you see the chest rise. Breaths should be about 1 second each.
After giving 2 rescue breaths, do 30 compressions. Continue the cycle of 2 breaths and 30 compressions.
If you are not trained in CPR, continue doing the chest compressions without giving rescue breaths.
Give CPR until the AED is brought to the scene or until:
Medical help arrives.
It becomes unsafe to continue.
The person is conscious and able to breathe.
To use the AED:
Turn the AED on.
Attach the pads.
Follow the prompts. If advised, deliver the shock. If the shock is not advised, the AED will tell you to resume CPR.
How Long Will It Take?
The length of time for CPR depends on the causes and response time of the emergency medical team.
Will It Hurt the Victim?
The person is unconscious when CPR is given. The procedure does not hurt. Some people may complain of soreness in the chest after they are conscious.
The person should be taken to the hospital. They should go even if they has recovered. Emergency personnel will take over care when they arrive.
Call for Help
If a teen or adult is unresponsive, call for emergency medical services right away. If someone is with you, have that person call for emergency medical services right away while you begin CPR.
2005 American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and emergency cardiovascular care (ECC) of pediatric and neonatal patients: pediatric basic life support. Pediatrics. 2006;117(5):e989-e1004.
2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care. Circulation. 2010;122(18 Suppl 3):S640-S656. Available at: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/122/18_suppl_3/S640.full.
Bardy, G.H. A critic's assessment of our approach to cardiac arrest. New Engl J of Med. 2011;364(4):374-375.
Heartsaver First Aid with CPR and AED. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/Training/HeartsaverCourses/HeartsaverBloodbornePathogens/UCM_473181_Heartsaver-CPR-AED-Online-Part-1.jsp. Accessed December 21, 2017.
Neumar RW, Nolan JP, et al. Post-cardiac arrest syndrome: epidemiology, pathophysiology, treatment, and prognostication. A consensus statement from the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation. Circulation. 2008;118(23):2452-2483.
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Last reviewed November 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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