Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for Adults
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Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation for Adults

(Lay Rescuer CPR for Adults)

En Español (Spanish Version)


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the term used to describe a series of assessments and interventions in which oxygen is manually delivered to and heartbeat is manually restored in individuals who have stopped breathing and/or have no heartbeat.

Reasons for Procedure

Lay CPR is administered to an unresponsive victim who is not breathing. Reasons for this may include:

Risk Factors for Complications During the Procedure

Complications during CPR depend on the cause of the cardiopulmonary failure. Greater risk is involved if CPR is not administered correctly.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Check for unresponsiveness by tapping the patient and asking “Are you OK?”.

  • If someone is with you, have them call 911 immediately .
  • If you are alone, call for help before starting CPR.
  • If an AED is available, have it brought to the scene. If you are alone, retrieve the AED when you call for help.
  • Check for breathing. If the victim is not breathing, begin CPR.

Description of the Procedure

During CPR, a trained individual administers mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the patient by blowing air directly into the patient's mouth. The patient's chest is pressed in a regular rhythm to help restore heartbeat.

  1. Position the adult so that he is lying on his back.
  2. Open the airway by placing one hand on the forehead and lifting the chin with your other hand.
  3. Gently tilting the head backward, pinch the patient's nose and cover his mouth with yours.
  4. Breathe twice into his mouth; until you see the chest rise. Breaths should be about one second each.
  5. Administer chest compressions.
    1. Place the heel of one hand palm down on the chest, with the other hand on top.
    2. Straighten your arms and lock your elbows; begin pressing down in a straight motion. The compressions should be about two inches deep.
    3. Push hard, push fast, at a rate of 100 compressions/minute
    4. Allow the chest to rise completely in between compressions
    5. Minimize interruption between compressions
  6. After 30 compressions, give two rescue breaths.
  7. Use AED as soon as it is available.
    1. Turn the AED on
    2. Attached the pads
    3. Follow the prompts. If advised deliver the shock and immediately after resume CPR. If the shock is not advised resume CPR.
  8. Continue cycle of 30 compressions and 2 breaths until the help arrives or it becomes unsafe to continue or the victim regains consciousness and is able to breathe.

Chest Cavity and Air Pathway

Chest cavity throat side view

During CPR, make sure to tilt the head back to open the airway and allow the chest to rise completely between compressions.

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

After Procedure

Regardless of whether heartbeat and breathing have been restored, the patient should be taken to the hospital. Emergency personnel will take over care of the patient when they arrive.

How Long Will It Take?

The length of time for CPR depends on the underlying causes and availability of advanced medical care.

Will It Hurt?

Because CPR is administered when the patient is unconscious, the procedure does not hurt. However, some patients may complain of soreness in the chest after regaining consciousness.

Possible Complications

The goal of the CPR is to provide blood flow to the heart and brain in a victim who is otherwise going to die if the appropriate care is not immediately rendered. Complications may include fracture of the ribs, broken teeth, infections, puncture of the lung etc.

Average Hospital Stay

This depends on the reason for cardiopulmonary failure and the effectiveness of CPR.

Postoperative Care

Patients will need to be taken to the hospital for evaluation following CPR.


Prognosis is dependent on the initial cause of arrest, how soon the CPR was initiated, and whether is was administered appropriately. Many patients are unable to regain normal heartbeat after it has stopped.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occurs

You should always call 911 if CPR needs to be administered, even if the patient begins breathing normally again and heartbeat is restored.


American Heart Association

American Red Cross

US National Library of Medicine


British Columbia Health Ministry

Canada Health Portal


American Heart Association website. Available at: .

American Red Cross website. Available at: .

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Am Fam Physician . 2000;62(7). Available at . Accessed February 27, 2007.

Cayley WE. Practice guidelines 2005 AHA guidelines for CPR and emergency cardiac care. Am Fam Physician . 2006;73(9). Available at . Accessed February 27, 2007.

Last reviewed January 2008 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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