CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, and when administered correctly it can be a truly lifesaving technique.
CPR is something you may have seen people giving on TV, or even seen paramedics giving in real life, and it is something that you will hopefully never have to perform yourself.
However, if you do find yourself in a situation where someone needs to be resuscitated, then being able to perform high quality CPR correctly and efficiently could save their life.
The technique is taught all across the country as part of first aid training, and one of the most common queries is: how long should you pause between delivering chest compressions? The answer is: no more than 10 seconds.
In this article we will not be able to teach you how to perform CPR, for that you should go to a first aid course where you will be able to practice on a dummy, and a supervisor can advise you on the exact techniques.
However, we will cover the basic step-by-step delivery of CPR, including how to know when it is needed and what preliminary actions to take.
We will discuss why you should pause for a maximum of 10 seconds between chest compressions, and cover the varying risks and compression depths that apply when giving CPR to different patients.
Let’s hope you never have to give CPR to anyone, but if you do, let’s be sure you know how to do it correctly.
What Is The Maximum Interval For Pausing Between Chest Compressions In CPR?
As we have already mentioned, many people wonder how long it is okay to pause between chest compressions when giving someone CPR. You should pause for no longer than 10 seconds at a time to avoid starving the body of oxygen between chest compressions.
You want to supply the organs with as constant a flow of blood (and therefore oxygen) as possible, so you should only cease giving chest compressions in order to:
- ventilate the patient (breathe into their mouth or nose)
- defibrillate the patient (if you have a defibrillator on hand)
- check their pulse
What Exactly Is CPR?
CPR (or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is a medical technique designed to keep blood flowing around a patient’s body after they have suffered a heart attack.
Blood contains oxygen which the body needs to function and stay alive, and if starved of oxygen, the vital organs (including brain, lungs, liver and heart) can suffer organ damage and fail.
By keeping a patient’s blood flowing, you help them to circulate oxygen around their body and can keep them alive long enough for a trained medical professional to arrive.
What Is The Chain Of Survival?
According to the American Heart Association, CPR is the second stage in what is known as the chain of survival. The chain of survival is the sequence of actions that will lead to the highest chance of survival for a heart attack victim.
The Chain Of Survival
- Step 1: Call 911
- Step 2: Perform CPR
- Step 3: Defibrillate (where possible) to get heart started again
- Step 4: Paramedics perform additional services
- Step 5: Patient receives ongoing care from medical professionals
When Should CPR Be Performed?
It is vitally important to note that CPR should not just be given to anyone who looks like they are in distress. It is a rigorous and risky technique that can cause harm if performed on someone who does not need it.
CPR should be given to people whose hearts have stopped pumping by themselves, or who have fallen unconscious and stopped breathing independently.
How Do You Know When CPR Is Necessary?
There are a few simple indicators you can look out for in order to determine whether or not someone requires CPR:
- If they are unconscious - CPR is indicated if a person is not able to open their eyes on their own.
- If they are unresponsive? - CPR is indicated if a person does not respond either physically or verbally when you call their name or lightly touch their skin.
- If they are not breathing? - CPR is indicated if a person is not breathing or if they appear to be taking very short, rapid gasps called agonal respirations
What Steps Should You Take Before Giving CPR?
If you suspect that a person requires CPR, you should act quickly because the sooner it is given the higher their chances of survival are. Before beginning, you should swiftly perform the following steps and then commence with chest compressions.
Step 1: Scan The Area For Potential Dangers
There are many reasons as to why a person may have had a heart attack and some
could be potentially dangerous to them or to you. They may have been electrocuted,
bitten by a snake or spider, or they may be drunk or on drugs. By scanning the
immediate area you can identify hazards and either remove them or gentle move the
victim to a safer place.
Step 2: Check The Victim For Any Response (Physical Or Verbal)
Next, you should call out to the victim and gently shake or tap them to try to elicit a
response. It can be dangerous to give CPR to someone who is not unconscious, so trying to wake them first is very important.
Step 3: Call 911
If the victim does not respond then you should immediately call 911 and request an
ambulance. This way you know that medical professionals are on their way and they
will have the equipment and expertise to revive the victim fully.
Step 4: Open Up The Victim’s Airway
With the paramedics on their way, you can now make sure that the victim’s airways
are clear. Turn them onto their back and tilt their head backwards a little so that the
mouth falls open. Look inside the mouth cavity and see if there is any fluid (sick or
bile) that could obstruct their breathing. If there is, quickly tip them onto their side to
drain the fluid, and then return the victim to their flat back position.
Step 5: Check If They Are Breathing
Having cleared the airway you should check if the victim is breathing independently.
It can be harmful to perform CPR on someone who is breathing so do not proceed if
you can now see that they are. However, if the victim is not breathing, you can now
proceed with chest compressions.
How Should CPR Chest Compressions Be Performed?
- First, place the heel of your dominant hand on the bottom of the victim’s chest bone. Your heel should sit centrally on their chest, or very slightly to the left of center.
- Next, place your other hand over your dominant hand and either interlace the fingers or grip onto your wrist. This will add strength and stability to your action.
- Now you can press down onto the victim’s chest to a depth of no more than ⅓ of their chest depth and no less than 2”. This is a compression and it will force blood out of the heart and into the body. This blood will carry oxygen to the vital organs.
- Release the pressure of your hands and the victim’s chest will decompress. Blood will automatically be drawn into the heart to fill the vacuum. This is called recoil, and it is vital that the chest fully recoils after every compression in order for CPR to work.
- Repeat these compressions to a steady beat at a rate of approximately (100 - 120 compressions per minute). If you need a guide, it really helps to perform the compressions by imagining the beat of the Bee Gees song ‘Staying Alive’ in your head and pumping in time to it.
- Be sure to press down at least 2 inches in depth each time to force enough blood out to the heart, and to release fully each time to allow the chest to fully recoil and let enough blood refill the heart.
- If you are going to give mouth-to-mouth, you should perform 30 compressions and then deliver 2 breaths. This should take no longer than 10 seconds or the victim’s body could become starved of oxygen.
What Is The Ideal Depth Of Chest Compressions?
It is possible to break a person’s ribs by performing CPR, but this should not put you off as the alternative could be much, much worse.
However, for babies and children, performing CPR too rigorously can be fatal, so you should alter your compression depth and technique in the following ways:
For A Newborn Baby
Newborn babies are incredibly fragile and can be easily injured or killed by rigorous CPR. Therefore you should only press two fingers on their chest bone rather than using two hands.
You should only compress the chest to ⅓ of the baby’s chest depth, which is likely to be far less than 2”. If you need to give them mouth to mouth, do so by covering the baby’s nose and mouth with your own mouth and gently breathing into them.
CPR compressions should be performed at the same rate of 100-120 per minute.
For A Child (Under The Age Of 8)
For children under the age of 8, or who look particularly small and fragile, you should use just one hand as opposed to two hands to deliver chest compressions.
Once again, these compressions should be no deeper than ⅓ of the child’s chest depth which is likely to be less than 2 inches. The rate of the compressions is the same as it is with an adult, 100-120 per minute (on in time to ‘Staying Alive’)
For A Teenager
In general, teenage victims who require CPR should be treated in the same way as
adults, with chest compressions going to less than 2 inches and no more than ⅓ of
their own chest depth.
Is CPR Effective?
CPR can be an incredibly effective and lifesaving technique if it is performed correctly. Heart attacks are one of the biggest causes of death in the US every year, with nearly half a million people dying from them annually.
However, if CPR is given to a patient immediately after they suffer a cardiac arrest, then their chances of survival can be doubled or even tripled!
This means that if more people were trained in CPR and were able to administer it safely and effectively, thousands of lives could be saved.
This is why, if you have not already done so, you should sign up to register for a certified CPR course and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same.