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Patient education: CPR for adults (The Basics)

Patient education: CPR for adults (The Basics)

What is CPR? — CPR stands for "cardiopulmonary resuscitation." It is a way to get blood and oxygen moving throughout the body of someone whose heart has stopped working.

CPR can save a person's life. It can keep the brain and other organs from being damaged by lack of oxygen. It is something you do until the heart can be shocked back into action or until it becomes clear the person cannot be saved.

The instructions for doing CPR on adults are different from the instructions for doing CPR on children.

What is an AED? — AED stands for "automated external defibrillator." It is a device that can tell if a person's heart needs to be shocked, and then give the shock. This can sometimes get a normal heart rhythm started again.

Many public places, such as shopping malls, airports, and sports events, have AEDs available. They come with directions so anyone can use them, even without special training. AEDs can save lives, since shocking a person's heart has the best chance of working when it is done right away.

How do I know if a person needs CPR? — If you come across an adult who is passed out, tap the person forcefully and ask, "Are you OK?" If the person does not respond, is not breathing, or is breathing abnormally (gasping), call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, call 9-1-1). Then, start CPR.

If another person is nearby, tell them to get the AED while you start CPR. When you call for an ambulance, the person who answers the phone can tell you what to do. They will help you do CPR and tell you when you should use the AED. If you are calling with a cell phone, put the speaker on so you can have your hands free.

The person who is passed out and needs CPR is often called the "victim." The person who does CPR is often called the "rescuer."

How should people without medical training do CPR? — People who do not have training are advised to do "hands-only" CPR. With hands-only CPR, you do not need to worry about doing rescue breathing ("mouth to mouth"). The most important thing to do for someone whose heart has stopped is to get blood moving again. You can do this with hands-only CPR.

You can do hands-only CPR even if you have never done it before and have never been trained. All you have to do is press hard and fast on the center of the victim's chest.

Pressing on the chest for CPR is called doing "compressions." To do compressions, make sure that the victim is on a flat, solid surface. Then:

Kneel over the victim, stack your hands on top of one another with both palms facing down, and lock your fingers together.

Holding your arms straight, press on the center of the victim's chest with the heel of your bottom hand (picture 1). Use your body weight, rather than the strength of your arms, to press on the chest. Pushing like this squeezes the victim's heart and gets blood moving again.

Make sure that the victim's chest drops down at least 2 inches under your weight with each push. Between compressions, lift all pressure off of the victim's chest so that their chest goes back to where it was.

Keep pushing hard and fast on the center of the chest. The goal is to do at least 100 to 120 compressions a minute.

Keep doing compressions until an ambulance comes or someone who is trained in health care takes over. If you start to get tired, ask someone else to take a turn doing compressions. Try to switch places quickly so there isn't a break. Do not worry about breathing for the victim or doing anything besides compressions.

Do people with medical training do CPR differently? — Yes. People with training do CPR differently than other people. In addition to compressions, they will also give "rescue breaths." To do this, they hold the victim's nose shut and breathe into their mouth. This gets more oxygen into the person's lungs.

Where can I go to learn more? — To learn more about CPR and find training centers in the US or internationally, go to www.heart.org.

More on this topic

Patient education: Heart attack (The Basics)
Patient education: Sudden cardiac arrest (The Basics)
Patient education: CPR for children (The Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Feb 02, 2024.
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