First aid

How to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation

CPR Step by step life-saving technique

Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is one life-saving technique everyone should know how to perform.

In the UK, around 30,000 people each year have a cardiac arrest, but only one in three are given CPR by someone nearby, according to the Resuscitation Council. Yet CPR can double a person's chances of survival.

It keeps vital blood and oxygen circulating round the body if someone has stopped breathing until the emergency services arrive, and can make the difference between life and death.

It consists of a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths.

To mark World First Aid Day 2011 on September 12th, we've compiled a brief guide to CPR.

CPR on adults

If you are alone and discover someone who is unconscious and appears to have stopped breathing, check the airway is open and clear.

  • Tilt back their head and lift the chin
  • Look at the chest to check if it is rising or falling
  • Listen and feel for any signs of breathing

If the person is not breathing, call for an ambulance before starting CPR.

If someone else is nearby, get them to call the emergency services while you begin CPR.

Chest compressions

  • Place the heel of one hand on the centre of the chest and place the other hand on top
  • Keeping your arms straight, push down on the chest with the heel of your hand. You should push down by 4-5cm
  • Keep your hands in place, release the pressure, and allow the chest to rise
  • You should try to do one to two chest compressions a second
  • Do this 30 times at a steady rate, then administer two rescue breaths

Rescue breaths

  • Make sure the airway is open and clear. Place a hand on their forehead, gently tilt the head back, and lift
  • Pinch the person's nose
  • Place your mouth over theirs
  • Blow into the person's mouth; you should see the chest rise
  • Repeat once more. As you take another breath you should see the person's chest fall

If you can't bring yourself to administer rescue breaths, then give chest compressions only.

Continue with CPR until the emergency services arrive, or someone else can take over from you.

A recent study published in The Lancet suggested that chest compressions without rescue breaths slightly improved the survival of patients.

Both the British Red Cross and St John Ambulance advise doing both, or just chest compressions alone if the bystander does not feel confident or comfortable performing rescue breaths. Just don't do nothing!

Children and babies

For a child aged between one and puberty, chest compressions should be carried out using one hand.

For babies under the age of one, chest compressions should be carried out using two fingers. Both the nose and mouth should be covered with the mouth of the person performing CPR.

This article was published on Fri 9 September 2011

Image © Leah-Anne Thompson -

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