Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a procedure intended to maintain some degree of blood circulation and oxygenation of the brain and other vital organs of cardiac arrest victims. Cardiac arrest may occur suddenly, especially in adults, and can be brought about by various causes, such as heart attack, trauma, or drowning. Basic CPR maneuvers, such as chest compressions and rescue breathing, are suited for most cases; however, special circumstances, like severe bleeding or dangerous chest wounds, may require a different approach.

CPR is not the exclusive domain of health care professionals; although CPR training at STS in Berkeley and experience are excellent when available, any minimally informed person can be helpful. Also, CPR is not actually expected to restore victims to consciousness and safety, and inexperienced rescuers should not be daunted by their efforts’ failure to produce noticeable effects. Rather, basic resuscitation maneuvers are meant to improve the victim’s chances of survival until a professional medical crew can intervene.

The most important thing for an inexperienced rescuer to remember is the correct sequence of actions. The first step is, necessarily, calling the emergency services number. If there are at least two rescuers, one should make the call and remain on the telephone with the emergency dispatcher, who can provide real-time guidance until the ambulance crew arrives. If you are a lone rescuer, you will have to multitask as best you might, and call for assistance while you move on to the next steps; use the phone’s handsfree function, if you can, to remain in touch with the dispatcher.

The next step is ascertaining whether the victim has actually suffered cardiac arrest, and is in need of CPR. The pulse can be difficult to check without prior training, and it may not immediately reveal a cardiac arrest, so attempting to take the pulse should be dispensed with. Briefly check for basic awareness: firmly shake the arm and call out loudly, and if the person is not responsive, lay him or her on the back. Just as briefly, check the victim’s breathing; if you cannot detect any, or if all you can observe is panting or gasping, begin performing chest compressions.

The latest AHA (American Heart Association) guidelines on CPR that is taught in our CPR Courses in Berkeley, released in 2010, represent a moderate departure from older recommendations. The long-standing ‘A-B-C’ of resuscitation (airway, breathing, and, finally, compression) has been revised; chest compressions now have priority, and it is even recommended that untrained rescuers limit their efforts to this ‘hands-only’ procedure (cardiocerabral resuscitation). The AHA argues that the lungs and blood still hold some oxygen even after breathing has ceased, and forced circulation alone, through chest compressions, can save lives.

To perform chest compressions, lay your palms one over the other, with fingers loosely interlaced, the heel of the hand firmly pressing against the center of the victim’s chest. Press down and release repeatedly, quickly and forcefully, allowing the chest to rebound completely after each push. For adults and children, the compression depth should be at least a couple of inches (or five centimeters,) and only 1.5 inches (or four centimeters) for infants. Use the weight of your body when pressing down, or your arms will tire out quickly. If you have no CPR training, just keep doing this until the ambulance crew relieves you.

Chest compressions must be performed at a rate of at least 100 per minute; a popular AHA training video has employed the useful pun of recommending to time compressions by mentally keeping the rhythm of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” hit. If you have CPR training in Berkeley, after about 30 compressions you can move on to opening the airway by tilting back the head and lifting the chin forward, and then perform mouth-to-mouth or mouth-to-nose rescue breathing; repeat in cycles of 30 compressions and two one-second breaths, until you can perceive the chest rising after a rescue breath, or until help arrives.

Without oxygen, irreversible brain damage and, eventually, death will occur within minutes; forced circulation through chest compressions and, if possible, rescue breathing can prolong this short grace period. Call for help immediately after concluding that the victim is unconscious and not breathing normally, or ask a nearby person to make the call, and begin performing CPR without hesitation. Even if you lack formal training and experience, a cardiac arrest victim’s life may depend on your determination and willingness to help.

Comments are closed.