Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is a first aid technique which should be administered as soon as possible to a person who has suffered a cardiac arrest (their heart has stopped beating). A heart attack is the commonest cause of cardiac arrest.

The first few minutes after a cardiac arrest are vital: if the pumping activity of the heart is not restored within a couple of minutes the brain suffers irreversible damage. CPR involves a combination of mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing and chest compressions to keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other organs.

New guidelines concerning the best method for carrying out CPR were published by the American Heart Association in November 2005, and have been adopted by the Irish Heart Foundation since July 2006. This means the following guidelines may differ from advice you have previously received. If you feel more confident using older techniques that you may be familiar with, you can continue to do so; they are still effective and valid.

CPR technique

Adults (including children above the age of puberty)

First give 30 chest compressions:

Give 2 rescue breaths:

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Babies and children

There are some differences to the procedure if you need to give CPR to a child or a baby (under one year of age). The key differences are:

Recovery position

If breathing is restored and signs of circulation are present, roll the patient over onto their side into what is commonly known as the 'recovery position' until an ambulance arrives.

The patient may still be unconscious at this point, but placing them on their side means that mucus or vomit which may have accumulated as a result of the trauma they have experienced will be able to get out of the mouth and will not obstruct the airways.

Also, the 'recovery position' prevents the tongue from falling back into the mouth and blocking the air passages.

Note: CPR is best learned at a first aid course where hands-on experience of the technique is acquired. Training is usually performed on a special mannequin, which has been constructed to simulate the signs of cardiac arrest. The above instructions should not be regarded as adequate instruction in CPR.

Reviewed: October 27, 2006