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The Hows & Whys of CPR


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving procedure used to keep blood circulating in a person’s body during cardiac arrest

The technique involves pressing on a person’s chest repeatedly to squeeze the heart and force blood to move. CPR can prevent severe brain damage and death by restoring heart and lung function. 

Anyone can perform CPR — the treatment is not limited to medical professionals. 

Learning Basics of CPR for Adults

It’s absolutely normal to feel nervous if you must urgently perform CPR. Don’t worry about doing it the “wrong” way. It’s also OK to perform CPR without rescue breathing. 

Follow these basic hands-only CPR steps for adults and teens in need of help: 

  • Talk loudly while rubbing the person’s breastbone (sternum) hard to get a response.
  • Check for breathing and a pulse.
  • If there is no pulse and the person is not breathing, call 9-1-1. Ask someone to find an automated external defibrillator (AED). Do not delay CPR to search for an AED.
  • Start CPR: Place one hand on top of the other and lock your fingers together. 
  • Put your hands on top of the breastbone and lock your elbows.
  • Press down hard — the chest should depress by at least one inch.
  • Push hard and fast, at least 100 times per minute.
  • Continue chest compressions until emergency responders take over. 

Basics of CPR for Infants & Children

Follow these CPR steps for infants and babies under one year of age: 

  • Lay the baby onto its back and tilt the head to open the airway.
  • Place two fingers on the breastbone and push hard and fast. Avoid the tip of the breastbone, as it can break and cause further complications.
  • If the baby remains unresponsive after two minutes, call 9-1-1. If there is no breathing, provide two rescue breaths.

Begin compressions again and continue them until help arrives. 

CPR for Children:

  • Follow the steps for adult CPR, except use one hand
  • If you cannot get enough compressions with one hand, use both. 

What to Expect from Recovery After CPR 

You may feel overwhelmed by the situation after performing CPR. The emotional response can be different for each person. It is common to experience anxiety or fear, or to be shaky, nervous, or even nauseous during and after the event. Staying focused on the task can help you remain calm. 

If you received CPR, you may feel sore from the compressions or the use of an AED device. Any discomfort should go away relatively quickly. If you are struggling with feelings of guilt or remorse after receiving CPR, your doctor can recommend mental health therapies to help. 

Find a Doctor to learn more about our expert cardiac care throughout the Bay Area.