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What is Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation?

By Simone Lawson
Updated: Feb 27, 2024

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is a method for reviving those who are suffering from cardiac or respiratory arrest. The procedure of cardiopulmonary resuscitation generally combines mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with chest compressions. There are certain precautions that should be taken when attempting to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and it is generally ideal to be certified in the procedure before attempting to perform on individuals in life-threatening situations.

Before attempting the procedure, it is advisable to first assess the situation. Check for consciousness before determining if the individual needs resuscitation. It is ideal to have someone contact emergency services before beginning the procedure. A person suffering from cardiac arrest is likely to need medical care as soon as possible. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency procedure and should not take the place of thorough and supervised medical care.

If the individual is unconscious and the proper authorities have been notified, one will need to quickly begin preparing the individual for the procedure. If possible, the person should be laying face-up on a firm surface. Before beginning the procedure, it is typically best to try to situate the person in this manner as much as possible.

The airways of the person receiving resuscitation should be clear and open for breathing. After ensuring the air passages are clear, those performing the procedure will need to slightly tilt the person's chin and head back. The resuscitator should then gently pinch the persons nostrils closed while breathing into their mouth. This is usually done once or twice until the chest visibly rises with the administered breath.

Immediately following the mouth-to-mouth breathing are chest compressions. To perform chest compressions, both hands are placed over the heart and strong pulses are applied to the chest. After performing a series of compressions, they will be alternated with mouth-to mouth breathing. The procedure may take several minutes before a person is revived to consciousness.

Paramedics or medical staff may use automatic defibrillators (AEDs) to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An AED is a computerized device that automatically administers a shock to the heart of a person suffering from slowed blood flow or cardiac arrest. The shocks stimulate the heart to revive blood circulation.

To become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, one may contact a local health-care organization such as the Red Cross. Courses should include hands-on training, and in the United States classes should be approved by the American Heart Association. The course generally will give detailed information on how to safely perform the procedure to be effective and helpful when attempting to assist someone in a life-threatening situation.

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Discussion Comments
By anon926029 — On Jan 15, 2014

I had to do CPR on my boyfriend once after a surfing accident. It was very scary. I was paranoid of breaking his ribs when I did compressions. Mouth-to-mouth, even when you are doing it on your boyfriend, can be quite disgusting. He had foamy water pouring out of his mouth and vomited a bit. We had to clear it out of his mouth so he didn't choke on it. Luckily he survived with the help of paramedics and life guards who came quickly to the scene.

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