CPR quick facts

The survival and recovery of critically injured or ill victims depends on—

Recognition and response by the lay responder.

Early activation of the EMS system.

Professional rescuer care.

Prehospital care provided by advanced medical personnel.

Hospital care.


The Cardiac Chain of Survival

    • Early recognition of the emergency and early access to EMS

    • Early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

    • Early defibrillation

    • Early advanced medical care

Steps to follow in an emergency:

Size up the scene.

determine is scene is safe, put on your PPEs (personal protective equipment), try to find out what happened, determine the number of victims and what additional help may be needed

Perform an initial assessment to identify life-threatening conditions.

check the victim for:


    Signs of life (movement and breathing)


    Severe bleeding

Summon advanced medical personnel.

If you are sure the victim needs additional help, or if you are unsure of the victim’s condition or you notice the condition worsening, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number

Obtain Consent Before Providing Care to a conscious victim

    Identify yourself

    State level of training

    Ask if you can help

    Explain that you would like to assess him or her to find out what is wrong

    and/or tell the victim what is wrong and explain what first aid you want to do

    pocketmask 107 pixels: gloved hands on a pocket mask on a manikin face

    Benefits of using a resuscitation mask:

      The possibility of disease transmission is reduced.

      A seal is created over both the victim’s mouth and nose.

      Air can be delivered to the victim more quickly through both the mouth and nose.

      The device can be connected to emergency oxygen if it has an oxygen inlet, thus increasing the oxygen concentration the victim receives up to 100%.

    Signs and symptoms of respiratory distress:

      Slow or rapid breathing

      Unusually deep or shallow breathing

      Shortness of breath or noisy breathing

      Dizziness, drowsiness or light-headedness

      Changes in the level of consciousness

      Increased heart rate

      Chest pain or discomfort

      Flushed, pale, ashen or bluish skin

      Unusually moist or cool skin

      Gasping for breath

      Wheezing, gurgling or high-pitched noises

      Inability to speak in full sentences

      Tingling in hands, feet or lips

    Care for Respiratory Distress

      Summon more advanced medical personnel

      Have victim rest in comfortable position that makes breathing easier

      Reassure and comfort the victim

      Keep victim from getting chilled or overheated

      Assist victim with any of his or her prescribed medications

      Give emergency oxygen, if it is available and you are trained to do so

    Lifeguards Peter Lee and Ethan Wilkie demonstrate bag valve mask: two lifeguards using a bag valve mask for rescue breathingA BVM (bag valve mask) reduces the risk of disease transmission and increases the level of oxygen being delivered to a victim. Rescue breathing only gives a victim about 16% oxygen, a BVM can deliver 21%

    Steps to use a BVM

      • Rescuer 1 performs an initial assessment while Rescuer 2 assembles the BVM.

      • Rescuer 1 seals the mask and opens the airway.

      • Rescue 2 begins ventilations.

      • Look for movement and recheck for breathing and a pulse about every 2 minutes.

    Signs and Symptoms of a Heart Attack

      Persistent chest discomfort, pain or pressure that lasts longer than 3 to 5 minutes, or goes away and comes back.

      Discomfort, pain or pressure in either arm, back or stomach.

      Chest discomfort, pain or pressure that spreads to the shoulder, neck, jaw or arms.

      Shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

      Nausea or vomiting.

      Dizziness, light-headedness, loss of consciousness or fainting.

      Pale, ashen, grayish or bluish skin.

      Sweating—face may be moist or person may be sweating profusely.

      Denial of signs or symptoms.

    Care for a Heart Attack

      Immediately summon advanced medical personnel.

      Have the victim stop what he or she is doing and rest.

      Loosen any tight or uncomfortable clothing.

      Closely monitor the victim until advanced medical personnel arrive.

      Notice any changes in the victim’s appearance or behavior.

      Comfort the victim.

      If medically appropriate and local protocols or medical direction permit, give aspirin if the victim can swallow and has no known contraindications. Never delay calling 9-1-1 to do this.

      Assist the victim with his or her prescribed medication

      Give emergency oxygen, if it is available and you are trained to do so.

      Be prepared to give CPR or use an AED

    Signs and symptoms of cardiac arrest (a life-threatening emergency):


      No movement or breathing

      No pulse

    CPR compressions photo by Joyce Kuo: gloved hands in place to do CPR compressions, photo by Joyce Kuo

    continue CPR until:

      another trainer rescuer arrives and takes over

      an AED is available and ready to use

      you are too exhausted to continue

      the scene becomes unsafe

      you notice an obvious sign of life

    The Heart

    Right atrium – receives blood from body

    Left atrium – receives blood from lungs

    Right ventricle – pumps blood to lungs

    Left ventricle – pumps blood to body


    Causes of Cardiac Arrest

    coronary heart disease

    ventricular tachycardia

    ventricular fibrillation

    bradycardia (extreme slowing of the heart)

    respiratory arrest





    from EMS World:

    “Commotio cordis, also known as cardiac concussion, occurs when a person receives a blow to the chest during a vulnerable window during diastole of the heart. This concussive force, occurring during the upstroke of the T-wave, triggers ventricular fibrillation Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Commotio cordis can occur in both contact and noncontact sports and should be suspected anytime an athlete experiences blunt trauma to the chest followed by sudden collapse.”


    Normal breathing is regular, quiet and effortless. Agonal breathing is a gasping noise that many people make when they collapse from cardiac arrest. It can be mistaken for breathing. But an isolated gasp or gurgle (in the absence of other breathing) is not normal breathing.

    In the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation 2005 Consensus on ECC & CPR Science and Treatment Recommendations we read that agonal gasps are common in the early stages of cardiac arrest. Bystanders often report to dispatchers that victims of cardiac arrest are ‘breathing’ when they demonstrate agonal gasps; this can result in the withholding of CPR from victims who might benefit from it.


    It is possible to receive a mild shock if an implantable ICD delivers a shock to the person during CPR. The risk to responders is minimal because the amount of electrical energy involved is low.



    In a life-threatening emergency, doing something right is better than doing nothing at all.
    When a rescuer is unable, untrained or unwilling to perform full CPR, continuous Compression Only CPR or Hands-only CPR for witnessed sudden collapse, can be effective in caring for a person with no signs of life.

    Hands only CPR (Yes, a professional rescuer would use their higher level of training.)

    The Red Cross has produced a video for people who have not been trained in CPR or who are not sure what to do.


    Elements of Quality Adult CPR Compressions

    Keeping arms as straight as possible

    Positioning the shoulders directly over hands

    Compressing the chest at least 2 inches

    Compressing at least 100 times per minute

    Letting the chest rise completely before pushing down again


    The Resuscitation Council UK notes “Following successful treatment for choking, foreign material may nevertheless remain in the upper or lower respiratory tract and cause complications later. Victims with a persistent cough, difficulty swallowing, or with the sensation of an object being still stuck in the throat should therefore be referred for a medical opinion.”


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    see also:

    AED quick facts includes basic steps of how to use an AED

    cultural issues in first aid

    In anticipation of taking a CPR certification class, please see: How to pass a Red Cross written test for advice.

    Why did they change CPR?

    CPR Pro skills review questions

    First Aid for Public Safety Personnel study guide

    Simple secondary survey study sheet

    Bloodborne Pathogens quick facts

    injuries quick facts

    anaphylaxis quick facts

    fast, basic neurological exam

    Oxygen administration quick facts

    You can download a PDF version of the Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Automated External Defibrillation for Professional Rescuers and Health Care Providers handbook to your laptop for free, or print the booklet at: