CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is an emergency lifesaving technique performed to keep oxygen and blood flowing through the body when an individual’s heartbeat and breathing have stopped, as in a heart attack.
CPR training refers to teaching an individual the correct way of performing CPR in order to keep a person’s heartbeat and breathing active until medical assistance arrives.
CPR is commonly indicated for individuals experiencing cardiac arrest. A heart attack occurs when blood supply to the heart is obstructed, but the individual is still conscious and not yet in cardiac arrest. Someone experiencing a heart attack may go into cardiac arrest, in which case CPR can double or triple their chances of survival. The main objective of CPR is to keep blood flow active until medical professionals arrive.
Cardiac arrest, also referred to as sudden cardiac arrest, occurs when the heart malfunctions and abruptly stops beating. Cardiac arrest is considered an electrical problem, whereas a heart attack is a circulation problem.
Types of CPR
There are two commonly known versions of CPR:
- Hands-only CPR: Hands-only CPR is CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths. It is recommended for use by the general public or bystanders who witness an adult or teen suddenly collapse in an out-of-hospital setting, such as at home, at work, or in a public space. It involves calling for help and then pushing down on the chest in a rapid and rhythmic motion. These movements are called chest compressions (pressing on the chest over the heart). Hands-only CPR can prevent a delay in getting blood moving throughout the body.
- Traditional CPR with breaths: This method alternates chest compressions with mouth-to-mouth breaths. This type of CPR can give the body more oxygen in the critical moments before help arrives.
Both hands-only CPR and CPR with breaths involve chest compressions. When an individual is in cardiac arrest, the heart has stopped and cannot pump blood through the body. Chest compressions recreate this pumping motion so that the blood circulates to vital organs and the rest of the body.
The compression rate is the number of compressions one should perform in 1 minute. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for hands-only CPR is 100 to 120 compressions per minute. It is important to let the chest come back up after every depression. In adult victims of cardiac arrest, it is reasonable for rescuers to perform chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120/min and to a depth of at least 2 inches or 5 cm for an average adult, while avoiding chest compression depths of greater than 2.4 inches or 6 cm.
CPR performed within the first few minutes of the heart stopping can keep someone alive until medical help arrives.
Procedure for Performing CPR
The 3 basic segments of CPR procedure are known as "CAB": C for compressions, A for airway, and B for breathing.
- C is for compressions: Chest compressions can assist with blood flow to the heart, brain, and other organs. CPR starts with 30 chest compressions, followed by 2 rescue breaths. According to the American Heart Association, rescuers doing compressions should "push hard, fast, and in the center of the chest" between the nipples.
- A is for airway: After 30 compressions, check the individual’s airway to ensure it is open for breathing. The airway may be blocked by the tongue when someone loses consciousness or by food or some other foreign object.
- B is for breathing: Rescue breathing begins after 30 compressions, when the airway is open. Someone doing rescue breathing breathes for the victim by forcing air into their lungs. This includes breathing into the victim's mouth at the right time and checking for signs of life.
Before performing CPR, check that the area is safe and then perform the following basic steps on the victim:
- Call 911 or ask someone else to.
- Lay the person on their back and open their airway.
- Check for breathing. If they are not breathing, start CPR.
- Perform 30 chest compressions. Place the heel of one of your hands in the center of their chest, between the nipples. Put your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers and then raise them up so only the heel of your hand remains on their chest. Now use your upper body to push straight down on their chest at least 2 inches. Perform these at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Allow their chest to recoil between compressions.
- Perform two rescue breaths, each lasting about 1 second. With the airway open, pinch the nostrils shut, and cover the person’s mouth with a CPR face mask to make a seal. If a mask is not available, cover the person’s mouth with yours. Watch for their chest to rise with each breath.
- Repeat until an ambulance or automated external defibrillator (AED) arrives.
CPR or cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a lifesaving action used in emergencies when someone isn't breathing or their heart is not beating. CPR combines chest compressions and rescue breathing (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation). If someone is not circulating blood or breathing well, CPR can help get oxygen-rich blood to the brain and restart breathing.