Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a valuable and often life-saving procedure that is performed when a person's heart or breathing has stopped. There are many reasons that a person may need CPR including accidents, such as prolonged choking where the airway is obstructed, trauma or drowning, electrical shock as seen when someone is electrocuted or illness, such as a heart attack.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation is taught by the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, and in some cases by paramedics, volunteer fire and ambulance departments and other medical personnel. One of the main purposes of training people in CPR is that it provides the average person with the know-how and the ability to provide vital body functions to someone who has stopped breathing and/or their heart has stopped, until trained medical personnel can arrive and take over the person's care using more advanced life support techniques.
When someone's heart or breathing stops, damage to the systems of the body occurs rapidly. It's been stated that damage to the tissues can begin within three minutes of the heart and lungs failing. A person can go without a heartbeat for up to ten minutes, however for each minute that a person goes without breathing and a heartbeat, and no CPR being performed, the person loses 10% of any potential survivability. In a Clinical Ethics Report it states, "If a patient's normal heartbeat stops and is not restored within 10 minutes, serious damage occurs to the brain and the nervous system. After 15-20 minutes without a normal heartbeat, death is almost certain (except in cases of hypothermia)." That is why it is so important to begin CPR as soon as possible.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation in essence, is when someone else breathes and/or pumps the heart for someone whose breathing and heart has stopped. The principle behind the use of CPR is that when compressions on the sternum are used in the absence of a normal heartbeat, it causes a change in pressure in the chest cavity which makes the blood flow throughout the person's body. By using chest compressions and breathing for the person, it allows for blood blow and cerebral (brain) perfusion, which keeps the brain alive. CPR has been proven effective on infants, children and adults.
Performing CPR doesn't necessarily guarantee that the person's heart or lungs will begin working on their own, but by performing CPR you can keep vital organs and tissues alive and functioning until medical personnel can arrive and more advanced intervention can take place including, electric shock, the use of medications, the placement of a breathing tube and other advanced procedures.
Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation can truly be an effective lifesaving measure. If you are not currently trained, contact your local American Red Cross or American Heart Association to locate a local training facility. Most local hospitals hold regular CPR classes as well.
Sources: American Red Cross
Scissors, K., Clinical Ethics Report 1993