Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

emergency procedure to maintain the blood flow to vital organs and to restore normal heart function after sudden cardiac arrest

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a set of actions that should be done if a person stops breathing, or if their heart stops. The goal of CPR is to force blood and oxygen to keep flowing through the body. Every part of the body needs blood and oxygen to survive. CPR does not start a person's heart again. However, it can keep pushing blood and oxygen around the body long enough that sometimes, it can keep the body from getting damaged by not having enough oxygen.

A man doing chest compressions.

There are different types of CPR. Regular people, who are not medical professionals, can do these things:

  • Realize that a person is not breathing or has suddenly collapsed
  • Call 911 (or whatever the emergency telephone number in their country is)
  • Do chest compressions (press hard and fast in the middle of the chest, on the breastbone, until help comes; this will force blood to keep flowing to the body)

Many medical professionals can also do these things:

  • They can use a machine called a defibrillator to give an electric shock to the heart. This will not restart a heart that is not beating. However, if the heart is beating in a way that is not normal, the electric shock may make the heart go back into a normal rhythm.
  • If the heart is not beating at all, they can give medicines (like epinephrine or atropine) to restart the heart.
  • If the heart is not beating in a normal rhythm, they can give medicines to make it start beating in a normal rhythm again
  • They can force oxygen into a patient's lungs, in a few different ways:
    • With a bag-valve-mask (by placing a mask over the patient's face and squeezing a bag that is attached and is filled with oxygen)
    • By placing a tube down a patient's throat to deliver oxygen more directly (this is called intubation).
  • They can use an artificial pacemaker to do the heart's job, and force the heart to beat at a certain speed and rhythm



Time is very important. Each minute that passes before CPR is started lowers the chance of survival by about ten percent. If CPR starts within the first three to five minutes, and a defibrillator is available, the chance of survival can be as high as 50%, or even 75% (That is: one out of two, or three out of four survive). In European countries, emergency services take about eight minutes or more to arrive, once they have been alerted. A victim's survival therefore largely depends on other people who are there and what they do. A quick call to emergency services, and a quick start of basic CPR, especially defibrillation, can double to triple the chance of survival - with adults and children.[1][2]



  1. Handley AJ, Koster R, Monsieurs K et al.: European Resuscitation Council guidelines for resuscitation 2005. Section 2. Adult basic life support and use of automated external defibrillators. (2005) Resuscitation. 67 Suppl 1:S7-23. PMID 16321717
  2. Kuisma M, Suominen P, Korpela R: Paediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrests: epidemiology and outcome. Resuscitation (1995) 30:141–150 PMID 8560103