What is CPR?

CPR – Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation

CPR is…

CPR is the abbreviation for Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation. It is defined by the Collins English Dictionary (full version) as:

“an emergency measure to revive a patient whose heart as stopped beating, in which compressions applied with the hands to the patient’s chest are alternated with mouth to mouth respiration” .

Indications for commencing CPR are an unconscious casualty who is unresponsive and not breathing normally.

Please note that infrequent gasping is not normal breathing and gasps are not effective breaths, therefore CPR should be commenced.

How should I do CPR?

In the UK, Resuscitation guidelines are set by the Resuscitation Council (UK) and are reviewed every 5 years or so. The current resuscitation guidelines, which were last updated in 2010 state that:

  • if someone is not breathing normally the emergency services should be called using 999 or 112.
  • CPR should then commence:
    • Place both hands in the centre of the patient’s chest and push down keeping your arms straight.
    • Release and repeat the sequence for 30 compressions.
    • The depth of compression should be 5-6 cm.
    • The rate of compressions should be 100-120 compressions/minute or roughly 2 per second.
    • Having done 30 compressions, open the patient’s airway using the Head Tilt/Chin Lift method and place your mouth over theirs to form a seal.
    • Gently breathe into their mouth.
    • Take your mouth away and check if the chest rose then repeat.
    • After 2 breaths return to chest compressions and do another 30.
  • Repeat the sequence 30 compressions: 2 breaths until:
    • Skilled help arrives and takes over, or
    • You are too exhausted to continue, or
    • The patient wakes up, moves purposefully AND is breathing normally.
  • If possible swap over with another rescuer every two minutes to prevent fatigue.

Why Is CPR important?

The heart is an electromechanical pump responsible for circulating blood containing oxygen around the body.

Without a good supply of oxygen the organs of the body and in particular the brain begin to die. Cell death due to oxygen starvation can occur within 3-4 minutes of the heart ceasing to beat properly.

The “Chain of Survival” shows that early access to CPR and to professional medical help leads to better outcomes for the patient.

Can anyone perform CPR?

Anyone one can perform CPR if they encounter a collapsed, non breathing patient, although they need to call 999 before starting CPR to ensure help comes out to them promptly. It is important that the casualty receives help so any CPR is better than none. However we would strongly recommend that people undertake a first aid training course to gain an understanding of the theory, and hands on practice of this life saving skill. The HSE recommend that first aiders refresh this skill annually to prevent skills fade.

How does CPR work?

It works by physically compressing the heart between the sternum (breastbone) and the spine. This then forces the blood in the hearts chambers into the arteries and around the body. Releasing the compression allows the heart to refill ready for the next compression. For CPR to be effective the rate and depth of the compressions have to be correct. Currently the depth is 5-6 cm and the rate is 100-120 compressions per minute.