How to Save a Life Using CPR

For over half a century, CPR has been the go-to method used to revive a person who is not breathing by members of the public and medical professionals alike. 

In this simple step by step guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of CPR and share a little more about why everyone should know how to administer it in the event of someone collapsing and how it works. 

How does CPR work?

Invented in 1960, Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (most commonly referred to simply as CPR) works by providing a trickle of oxygenated blood to the heart and brain, keeping the organs alive until defibrillation can shock the heart into a normal rhythm. CPR can double or even triple a person’s chances of survival in the case of Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA, for short) and is essential alongside AED use. If CPR is started within 4 minutes of a person collapsing and defibrillation is provided within 10 minutes, chances of survival increase by 40%. 

Despite 75% of SCA occurring at home and 90% occurring outside of a hospital setting, just over two-thirds of people in the UK know CPR, and only 30% said they would be confident in using it in a recent survey. Learning these basic steps is crucial for everyone, as you never know when the skill might be needed. And although AED is often required alongside CPR, it is essential to understand how to and what to do in the event of a person falling unconscious (more on this below).

There are two main types of CPR to be aware of – hands-only CPR and CPR with rescue breaths. Hands-only CPR can be performed by anyone and is best to use if you aren’t confident in administering CPR or are not medically or entirely first-aid trained. 

How do I know when to use CPR?

It can be challenging to know whether somebody requires CPR – especially with the acute stress that an emergency brings. Hesitation and fear are major contributing factors in just 30-40% of people saying they’d intervene if a person fell ill, but delays cost lives in the case of SCA. As a rule of thumb, begin CPR as soon as you can. You can use CPR whenever somebody falls unconscious and is not responsive or breathing normally (or at all), provided they do not have any significant chest injuries. Signs to look for include:

*No breathing at all, or erratic, gasping breaths

*No pulse

*Unresponsive 

Situations in which you may be required to administer CPR to save a life, other than SCA, include:

*Drowning

*Car accident

*Collapse

*Electrocution

How to save a life using CPR – step by step

CPR is straightforward – which is why it is so effective. In this article, we’ll cover the method for hands-only CPR, as this is the method you will most likely be required to use if you have no formal training in CPR. 

The first step to take, no matter what may be happening or what type of CPR you plan to administer, is to call the emergency services and request an ambulance. If you’re unsure or aren’t confident administering CPR, ask the call handler to stay on the line to support you. 

Whilst you wait for the ambulance to arrive, begin CPR right away. 

1/ Kneel down next to the person besides their torso and place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the centre of their chest. Place the palm of your other hand on top and interlock your fingers firmly.

2/ Position yourself so that your shoulders are directly and squarely above your hands. 

3/ Using the total weight of your body, not just your arms, press straight down, aiming to apply pressure 5-6cm deep (2-2.5 inches) on the person’s chest. 

4/ Keeping your hands on the person’s chest, release the compression and wait as you allow their chest to return to its normal position. Then repeat. 

5/ Repeat these compressions at a rate of 100-120 times a minute until an ambulance arrives or for as long as you can manage. Administering CPR, even for a short time, can be very intense physically. If others are present, you may need to take turns to keep it going.  

Pressure needs to be firm and consistent – it may seem as though you will hurt the person when you apply so much stress at such intensity, but it’s essential to do this to give the person the best possible chance of survival. 

Formal training is recommended to ensure your technique and method are correct – you can complete an in-person first-aid course at most community centres. 

Is CPR alone enough to save a life? 

Sometimes, yes. The efficacy of CPR really does depend on why the person is not responding; as a bystander without medical diagnostic equipment or expertise, it’s impossible to know this. Using CPR in the first instance is best practice, and using an AED if one is close by, is essential in all cases. CPR usually saves a life by keeping the person alive long enough for an ambulance to arrive. As mentioned above, defibrillation needs to occur as soon as possible, ideally within 4 minutes but at least within 10, to ensure survival and prevent neurological damage. 

Some misconceptions surrounding CPR are mostly brought about through its depiction in TV and film. CPR is not designed to restart the heart by itself and rarely does so – defibrillation is usually required to do this. 

SCA is notoriously unpredictable and can strike anytime, anywhere. Survival rates for out-of-hospital SCA are still concerningly low at just 8% – so raising awareness of using CPR and encouraging wider access to defibrillators are key to saving more lives. 

Making CPR simple with Beaty

It isn’t always easy to remember to execute CPR perfectly, especially when faced with a stressful situation such as SCA. Even for medical professionals, it’s sometimes difficult to know whether the pressure you’re applying is exactly right or deep enough. 

That’s where Beaty comes in. It intelligently measures the depth of pressure applied when administering CPR, helping you to ensure your chest compressions are effective as possible. 

To learn more about our award-winning lifesaving equipment or for more on first-aid and CPR, contact us here. 


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