Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions often with artificial ventilation in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest. It is recommended in those who are unresponsive with no breathing or abnormal breathing, for example, agonal respirations.
CPR involves chest compressions for adults between 5 cm (2.0 in) and 6 cm (2.4 in) deep and at a rate of at least 100 to 120 per minute. The rescuer may also provide artificial ventilation by either exhaling air into the subject’s mouth or nose (mouth-to-mouth resuscitation) or using a device that pushes air into the subject’s lungs (mechanical ventilation). CPR may succeed in inducing a heart rhythm that may be shockable. In general, CPR is continued until the person has a return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) or is declared dead.
Current recommendations place emphasis on early and high-quality chest compressions over artificial ventilation; a simplified CPR method involving chest compressions only is recommended for untrained rescuers. In children, however, only doing compressions may result in worse outcomes, because in children the problem normally arises from a respiratory, rather than cardiac problem. Chest compression to breathing ratios is set at 30 to 2 in adults.
CPR alone is unlikely to restart the heart. Its main purpose is to restore partial flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart. The objective is to delay tissue death and to extend the brief window of opportunity for a successful resuscitation without permanent brain damage. Administration of an electric shock to the subject’s heart, termed defibrillation, is usually needed in order to restore a viable or “perfusing” heart rhythm. Defibrillation is effective only for certain heart rhythms, namely ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, rather than asystole or pulseless electrical activity. Early shock when appropriate is recommended.