CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a potentially life-saving technique that is used in emergency situations to maintain the flow of oxygenated blood to the vital organs, particularly the brain and heart. When a person’s heart function or breathing has shut down, such as immediately after a heart attack, using CPR can help keep the individual alive until further medical attention is available. For this reason, CPR is regularly taught to the public to provide a first line of defense during the minutes before the ambulances and medics arrive.
In essence, conventional CPR consists of two elements: chest compressions and rescue breathing. Another form of CPR focuses solely on chest compressions, without rescue breathing, and some health organizations recommend this form in cases of recovery from heart attacks. In either case, the aim of CPR is to help a person whose circulatory system and/or respiratory system has failed. Depending on the specific circumstances, CPR may be combined with the use of AED (Automated External Defibrillators), which are now provided in many public places, such as airports or shopping malls.
When to Use CPR
One of the most common occasions to use CPR is following a heart attack. Other common incidents include near drowning or choking occasions, in which the victim’s ability to breathe has been blocked. While it is highly recommended to seek training in CPR from an accredited school, organizations such as the American Heart Association advise that even untrained individuals at least provide some basic CPR care, as possible, such as chest compressions. If you recognize that the individual is not breathing or blood is not circulating properly, performing CPR and calling 9-1-1 are your two most critical tasks. If you are with other people, tell someone else to call 9-1-1 and begin doing CPR immediately. If you are alone with the victim, provide an initial minute of CPR and then call 9-1-1, or if possible, do both immediately using a speakerphone function on your mobile phone.
CPR for Choking Victims
If you see someone choking, whether from a near-drowning incident or due to a lodged object in the windpipe, CPR may be necessary. First check whether the individual can speak or cough. If he or she is unable to speak but is conscious, first perform an abdominal thrust, also known as the Heimlich maneuver. Do so until the blocking object is expelled from the airway. If the person is unresponsive, perform CPR immediately. Begin by checking whether you can see the blocking object in the individual’s mouth or throat. If possible, remove it directly. If not, proceed with CPR chest compressions and rescue breathing.
CPR for Cardiac Arrest
In many respects, you should provide CPR to a victim of a cardiac arrest in the same way as you would to a choking victim. However, there are some differences. If you witness a cardiac event and have no reason to believe the person has also choked on something, you may skip the step of checking the victim’s airway. In addition, some organizations recommend using chest-compression-only CPR, without any rescue breathing, following cases of cardiac arrest. Doing so is especially advised if you have not received official CPR training, or if you do not remember your training very well. What happens during the initial minutes following a cardiac arrest is crucial to the victim’s recovery. Therefore, bystanders who are able to provide CPR while medical attention arrives may dramatically improve the chances of survival.
Using CPR with Infants and Children
If you need to perform CPR on an infant or child, the principles remain the same as for adults, but you may need to make adjustments to better accommodate the child or baby’s smaller frame. For a child who is conscious but unable to breathe, begin by delivering back blows or abdominal thrusts. If the child is unconscious, perform a modified form of CPR. For children, use one hand instead of two hands for chest compressions and press down only about ½ inch.
Given the potential usefulness of CPR to save lives, numerous organizations offer classes to the public in order to increase knowledge of correct CPR procedure. While you may learn many basic CPR tips from written material, experts recommend attending a proper, certified course in order to properly equip yourself, in case of an emergency situation. In particular, schoolteachers and parents are advised to learn the technique so they may help children in case of emergency. By acquainting yourself with the right technique in advance, you can act quickly and possibly make the difference between life and death. For example, each minute after a cardiac arrest that the person waits, unattended, reduce the chances of survival by 7 to 10 percent.