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Learning Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a procedure used in emergency situations on a person who has suffered cardiac arrest, has nearly drowned, or in a life-threatening condition possibly due to the progression of complications from an adverse health event.

When to Use CPR

Use CPR when the patient has an undetectable heartbeat and is not breathing—include rescue breathing and chest compressions. Rescue breathing supplements oxygen to the lungs and chest compressions circulates oxygenated blood to the vital organs and brain.

Purpose of CPR

The purpose of CPR is to artificially circulate blood to the patient’s brain and heart until medical professionals achieve the restoration of a normal heart and lung function with the aid of a cardiac defibrillator, medications, and other advanced medical interventions.

History and Progression of CPR

Modern CPR, combining chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, was developed in 1960 when the American Heart Association (AHA) began teaching physicians closed-chest cardiac resuscitation.

The general public and healthcare professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and emergency medical technicians, perform CPR. The American Heart Association recommends that trained professionals use CPR with rescue breathing and chest compressions and that non-professionals, if unable to provide rescue breathing, use continuous chest compressions (“hands-only” CPR without rescue breathing) on adult patients.

As of 2008, the use of hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation became the best practice for non-healthcare providers when attempting to revive victims of cardiac arrest. For children and infants, the AHA continues to recommend CPR with rescue breathing for both professionals and non-professionals.

Chest Compressions Only

Use only chest compressions in hands-only CPR. For adults, rescuers should:

Note. Rescuers should continue giving chest compressions for as long as they are physically able or until professional help arrives. Chest compressions must be faster than the normal heartbeat and performed hard enough because there is only a 20 to 30 percent chance of re-establishing blood flow as efficient as the heart is in circulating the blood.

The focus on chest compressions eliminates the confusion about how to open the airway and doing rescue breathing, which saves precious time. The compressions circulate the oxygen-rich blood to the heart and brain, which significantly increase the patient’s chances of survival.

CPR With Rescue Breathing for Children and Adults

When used on adult patients, CPR with rescue breathing includes both chest compressions and breaths. The rescuer should:

CPR for children is the same as CPR for adults; however, If a child younger than eight has collapsed: do not leave the child alone until you have done CPR for about 2 minutes. After 2 minutes of care, then call 911.

CPR for Infants and Children Under Six Months

CPR for infants, or children under six month of age, is slightly different. The rescuer should:

CPR Facts

Currently, only 30% of people who collapse because of cardiac arrest outside of a hospital receive CPR from bystanders. 

CPR is most effective when done within four minutes after a person collapses and loses their heartbeat and breathing. But, overall survival rates for people who collapse outside a hospital are low.

Overall, an individual who receives CPR has a survival rate of 30% if an AED arrives several minutes early to restart their heart rhythm. Rates of survival until discharge from the hospital range from as low as 2% in some areas to as high as 20%.

Among these survivors, over 60% usually regain their previous mental capacity. Performing CPR and immediately calling 911 gives a person the greatest possible chance of survival after collapsing, doubling or tripling their chances of survival.

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Written by and last updated Apr 23, 2017

Last reviewed by on Oct 2, 2016