Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an crucial emergency procedure performed on a person who is in cardiac arrest or anytime when a person’s breathing and heartbeat stops. CPR incorporates chest compressions and rescue breathing to provide oxygen to the lungs and keep
blood circulating through the body. A person in cardiac arrest needs immediate treatment in order to survive. Permanent brain damage or death take place in a matter of minutes if blood flow stops. The primary goal of CPR is to delay death by extending the brief period of time needed for further treatment and a successful resuscitation. This lifesaving procedure is the most critical part of first response
during cardiac arrest.
Often confused with a heart attack, cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating unexpectedly. Cardiac arrest is an “electrical” problem of the heart that results in death within minutes if not treated. A heart attack is a “circulation” problem of the heart and occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Symptoms of a heart attack vary. Men and women may have different symptoms such as intense chest pains, shortness of breath and nausea. Symptoms may be present for hours, days, or weeks before a heart attack. A person experiencing symptoms of a heart attack should call 9-1-1 immediately to prevent further damage to the heart. Self care and prompt recognition of symptoms help lower the risk of extensive damage even during a heart attack.
Typically, the heart does not stop beating during a heart attack, unlike with cardiac arrest. Understanding the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest is extremely important during the first response. The administration of CPR is the difference between life and death during cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrest is triggered by an electrical malfunction of the heart resulting in an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). The heartbeat may be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). Although not all types of arrhythmia are life threatening, many result in cardiac arrest. When cardiac arrest occurs, the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body. A patient in cardiac arrest becomes unresponsive in a matter of seconds. Breathing is abnormal or may cease all together.
CPR is a preventative measure that helps sustain brain function by restoring the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain and heart. CPR begins with a set of 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 beats per minute. Chest compressions are continued at a steady rate until help arrives. CPR certified individuals may use rescue breaths between each set of chest compressions. Rescue breaths allow air into the lungs if successfully executed. The American Heart Association no longer considers rescue breaths necessary during CPR and focuses on the importance of chest compressions. It is recommended to wait 2 minutes after beginning CPR to check vitals for signs of breathing. CPR should continue at the same rate and depth in intervals of 30 compressions until help arrives.
The American Heart Association offers instructional and educational courses to become CPR certified. It is important to become CPR certified or attend CPR and first aid sessions in order to successfully perform CPR. Performing CPR with no prior experience or knowledge is dangerous for everyone involved. CPR courses use a step-by-step hands-on method to teach CPR administration. The courses also provide crucial information about alternate methods and protocols to use while performing CPR. The difference between performing CPR on an adult versus a child is one of the many topics covered which people may be unaware of.
According to The American Heart Association, about 92 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital, but statistics show that if more people knew CPR, more lives could be saved. Immediate CPR can double, or even triple, a victims chance of survival. Education is the key element in the effort to raise awareness about CPR. Students should be aware of not only disease prevention behaviors, but also critical first response procedures like CPR and first aid. If high school graduates earned a diploma and were required to be CPR certified many lives would be saved. The students would gain a sense of responsibility and possibly a new perspective on reality which could positively influence future decisions. Learn more on CPR by visiting www.heart.org/HEARTORG/ and raise awareness about the procedure that could save your life.