Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is a life-saving procedure that attempts to provide adequate circulation and oxygenation in individuals whose heart has suddenly stopped beating (cardiac arrest) or who has stopped spontaneous breathing (respiratory arrest).
CPR is done to maintain and/or restore circulation and breathing and to ensure adequate oxygenation and blood flow to vital organs, such as the heart, brain and lungs. It is a critical procedure during the first few minutes after a respiratory or cardiac arrest. And because of its importance, this skill is included in almost all first aid training courses.
Like other first aid procedures, CPR can be performed by trained laypeople on adults, adolescents, children, and infants. This lifesaving procedure should be performed if an individual suddenly become unconscious, stops breathing and has no pulse. There are many factors that can cause cardiac and respiratory arrest that include severe allergic reactions, choking, airway obstruction, ineffective heartbeat, drug reactions, drowning, exposure to extreme cold, trauma, or severe shock.
CPR is an important step in the emergency cardiac care system designed to save lives. Prompt recognition of CPR-situations and activation of the emergency medical system, and early CPR can help prevent many deaths. Immediate defibrillation and advanced cardiac life support measures further increases the chances of the person.
The CPR performed by trained laypeople is intended to maintain and support blood circulation and breathing while waiting for advanced medical care by healthcare personnel. Meanwhile, when CPR is performed by healthcare professionals, it is used alongside basic and advanced life support measures.
Ideally, CPR should be performed within four to six minutes after the person has stopped breathing to avoid brain damage or death. CPR is a composite of procedures – rescue breathing and external chest compression. The former delivers oxygen to the lungs and the latter to help circulate oxygenated blood to the body’s vital organs – the brain and heart. CPR should be performed after assessing the victim and calling 911 for help.
Although the principles and procedures are the same, CPR technique may differ for adults, children and infants. For the purposes of CPR, adults, children and infants are distinguished as follows:
- Adults – children older than eight years
- Children – children 1-8 years old
- Infants – newborns to 1 years old
The CPR technique used for infants and young children is modified owing to their body size. Moreover, children and infants have anatomically smaller airways and have faster heart rates. On the other hand, children over eight years old have reached a body size that can be handled with adult CPR technique. In order to learn the differences between these techniques, it is best to take both the basic and pediatric first aid training courses. The Red Cross and its training partners offer training programs year-round. Contact your local Red Cross chapter today. Learn CPR and save lives!