What is CPR? (FAQS)

Posted by: Lubas Medical on 23rd May 2018

CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) is an emergency life saving procedure that is carried out when somebody is in cardiac or respiratory arrest. We combine rescue breaths and chest compressions to try and circulate oxygen around a casualty’s body to the major organs in preparation for defibrillation.

What is a cardiac arrest?

Cardiac – relating to the heart. Arrest – To stop.

Cardiac arrest is when the heart stops pumping blood (and therefor oxygen) around the body. This is often caused by an electrical or mechanical malfunction of the heart, an underlying heart condition, or following a medical emergency. During cardiac arrest, the vital organs are starved of oxygen and the casualty becomes unconscious and stops breathing.

Is a heart attack the same as cardiac arrest?

No. A heart attack is caused by a blockage in the arteries supplying blood and oxygen to the heart tissue. As the heart is a muscle, it requires oxygen to function correctly. If untreated, this can develop into a cardiac arrest as outlined above. Therefore, a heart attack could be the cause of a cardiac arrest

How effective is CPR at restarting the heart?

A common misconception is that CPR is designed to “re-start” the casualty’s heart. CPR is effective in circulating blood and oxygen to the vital organs until a defibrillator becomes available to shock the casualty (and theoretically restart the heart). Effective CPR within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can more than double the chances of survival.

What is a ‘defibrillator’?

A defibrillator (or AED, which stands for Automated External Defibrillator) is a device that can deliver an electric shock to the heart of a casualty in cardiac arrest. The shock provides enough electricity to help “re-start” the heart under the right circumstances.

AED’s assess the casualties heart rhythm and “decide” if a shock is required. This makes them very safe and simple pieces of equipment for bystanders to use.

Can I use a defibrillator?

The simple answer is yes. Though it is highly preferred and recommended you have training before using a defibrillator, it isn’t a requirement. A defibrillator is a vital piece of life saving equipment that can be used by any bystander during cardiac arrest.

Defibrillators are becoming much more common in public places like supermarkets, train stations, public gyms, airports etc. These are referred to as PAD’s (Public Access Defibrillators). They are very effective at guiding the operator through the process of potentially shocking a casualty and will not allow you to shock someone who doesn’t need it.

There is no reason to be afraid to use a defibrillator if you suspect a casualty is in cardiac arrest.

Is CPR effective without mouth to mouth or rescue breaths?

Chest compressions combined with rescue breaths is still the recommended and most effective form of CPR.

However, if you have reason not to give mouth to mouth/rescue breaths e.g. the casualty has blood or vomit around their mouth, or you don’t know the casualty and are unsure as to the risks of infection, “hands-only” CPR is an acceptable alternative.

In casualty’s that have suffered cardiac arrest through a lack of oxygen (caused by drowning, asthma, anaphylaxis or in most children), “hands only” CPR is much less effective.

Chest compression’s without rescue breaths are always still more effective than doing nothing at all!

How do I know if someone is in cardiac arrest?

Without an appropriate supply of blood & oxygen, the brain cannot function and shuts down. During cardiac arrest, the lack of oxygen to the brain will cause the casualty to become unresponsive or unconscious.

The casualty may make noisy, infrequent gasps or may show no signs of breathing. This is not normal breathing and would indicate the casualty is in cardiac arrest.

If the casualty is unconscious and has stopped breathing normally, they are in cardiac arrest. Call 999 and start CPR!

Will the casualty survive a cardiac arrest?

In the UK, fewer than 10% of people that suffer cardiac arrest, with an attempt of CPR outside of hospital, survive.

Where a cardiac arrest is recognised immediately, CPR is performed, and a defibrillator is used prior to medical professionals (Paramedics) arriving, survival rates of higher than 50% have been reported. This really highlights the importance of the recognition of signs and symptoms and importance of immediate CPR and defibrillation.

Can you be sued for doing CPR?

Nobody in the UK has ever been sued for attempting CPR. In 2015, the government introduced the ‘Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism (SARAH)’ act to protect those performing “acts of heroism”.

The link to this law is as follows:

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2015/3/introduction/enacted

Is adult CPR different from child CPR?

The ratio of compressions to rescue breaths in children is the same as the adult sequence, however, there are some modifications that make it more appropriate for children as follows:

It is important to know that these modifications are not essential, and it is far more important that some form of CPR is given rather than nothing at all. There is a general fear that the “wrong” form of CPR given in children could make the situation worse. This is not the case and any attempts at CPR will have more benefit that doing nothing.

How effective is CPR at restarting the heart?

A common misconception is that CPR is designed to “re-start” the casualty’s heart. CPR is effective in circulating blood and oxygen to the vital organs until a defibrillator becomes available to shock the casualty (and theoretically restart the heart). Effective CPR within the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can more than double the chances of survival.