CPR can save lives. Here's how (and when) to do it.


Over the past decade, CPR has changed. The currently recommended technique is now incredibly simple, avoids putting the mouth on a stranger's face (huzzah!) And could double or even triple the chances of survival of the victim of cardiac arrest.

Even if you learned this life-saving technique some time ago, it's time to update your knowledge. After all, if no one takes action when someone breaks down after a cardiac arrest (that means his heart has stopped beating), that person will die.

"A cardiac arrest is consistently fatal if the CPR is not administered," says Benjamin Abella, Emergency Department Physician, Director of the Penn Medicine Resuscitation Center.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is not intended to bring someone back to life; It is saving time until the arrival of emergency services. And this time is precious: for every minute without CPR, the chances of survival of the victim of a cardiac arrest decrease from 10 to 15%, explains Abella. "It is the most time-sensitive disease in all drugs."

What to look for

Of course, you want to help someone who needs medical care. But it's not necessary to practice CPR on every person who clings to the chest – after all, the technique requires compressions strong enough to break the ribs. Before you begin, you must understand the difference between a heart attack and a heart attack.

"A heart attack occurs when a piece of heart muscle is injured because of a lack of blood flow or a blockage of an artery," Abella explains. "In most cases of heart attack, people's hearts do not stop and they do not need CPR." When a person has a heart attack, symptoms may include sweating, chest pain and shortness of breath. Although they do not need CPR, they require medical attention, which means that you need to call 911.

Compare that to a cardiac arrest, where the person's heart has stopped beating. According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 of these extremely serious events occur each year in the United States (not counting those occurring in hospitals). The patient will lie on the ground, unconscious, without breathing or moving. Without CPR and without medical help, the victim will die.

Most of the time, a heart attack starts at home, said Lawrence Phillips, cardiologist at NYU Langone Health. "It's often someone you know – a friend or a family member – who will suddenly collapse," he says.

Fear that they are not experiencing cardiac arrest or that you are going to hurt them? "When you do CPR on someone who needs it, you are the only thing that allows him to save his life," said Phillips. So do not worry about breaking ribs, it's not a fate worse than death.

Again, your first step is to dial 911. With help, start pressing the victim's chest (to know how to do it in a moment) until the professionals arrive or the victim responds. . "If they wake up or start talking, well, you'll stop at that moment," Phillips says.

How to do CPR: it's easy now

The American Heart Association recommends that most people practice CPR by hand for adult and teenage victims. Good news: it's a pretty simple technique. Here's how to do it.

Start by calling 911 or ask another viewer to do so. Then start the CPR with your bare hands by kneeling next to the patient, crossing your fingers and placing the heel of your hand in the middle of the chest, roughly between the nipples. Then press quickly, about 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Your hands should move 2 to 2.5 inches with each compression, but you do not need to measure.

"No one has a rule," says Abella. Instead of worrying about the exact depth of each press, he describes the best advice simply to "push hard".

In addition to the depth, you will need to gauge the exact rate. But do not worry, music can help: you can grow to the rhythm of a song with the right rhythm. The most eye-catching choices include "Stayin 'Alive" (yes, really) Bee Gees, Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" or Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. In fact, the American Heart Association has organized a playlist of acceptable songs on Spotify, titled "Do not Let Beat the Beat."

When you compress the patient's chest, the movement will circulate his blood and the vital oxygen that he is already carrying. This means that you will not need to breathe mouth to mouth.

Of course, chest compressions are not as effective as a beating heart, says Abella. "But it generates enough blood flow to keep the organs alive until the arrival of help and the provision of definitive medical care."

In short: if someone suddenly collapses and remains motionless on the ground, that it is a family member or a stranger, call 911 and perform CPR by hand only. "What matters, says Abella, is to do something."

What about mouth to mouth?

The blood of the victim already contains oxygen. But without mouth to mouth, how long will it last? Abella says you will not find a precise number, but "it's fair to say that during the first three to five minutes, it's reasonable to do CPR by hand only".

After that, if you have completed full cardiopulmonary resuscitation training with respiratory rescue and you feel comfortable performing it, you can. Even if you are an amateur, after five minutes without an ambulance, consider trying these rescue breaths. However, there is no pressure – the important thing is to do these chest compressions.

Before that time, mouth-to-mouth is simply not necessary. Abella knows CPR well, but he continues to say that while he was on the street and had to help a person in cardiac arrest, "for the first five minutes I would do CPR by hand only".

Want to learn how to do full CPR, breathe by breath and everything? You should be trained. However, if you are in a hurry, here is the basic protocol: 30 chest compressions, then two rescue breaths, then 30 more compressions, then two more breaths.

When you breathe, first breathe your head by lifting your chin – that is, opening the airways – and pinch your nose. Make sure to get a good seal with your mouth on their before exhaling twice. Compressions, breaths, compressions, breaths. Rinse, repeat.

In general, wondering if you need to perform a full CPR or a hands-free version will save you valuable time. If in doubt, start only chest compressions. "What really matters is to circulate the blood in the body," says Abella, more than just providing oxygen to the lungs. "

For the record, however, the American Heart Association recommends that if you see a teenager or adult suddenly collapse, you only need to perform chest compressions, according to an email from a spokesperson from the AHA. Do a complete CPR "for infants; children; victims of drowning or drug overdose; or people who collapse because of breathing problems. (Complete CPR, especially in children and infants, requires training because it differs from CPR in the adult.)

The American Red Cross offers similar advice: "Complete CPR is the best option if a person knows how to do it – especially for infants, children, drowning victims and people with heart problems. known ", said a spokesman for the Red Cross. Meanwhile, the CPR in hand "addresses those who are not trained, who do not want or are not able to breathe." (Disclosure: I've already worked for the Cross American Red as a volunteer of Americorps, and my job was to teach CPR.)

"The Mix-Up", a video of the American Heart Association illustrating CPR in hand.

Other issues to consider

Ultimately, a cardiac arrest victim needs emergency care (for example, a health professional using a defibrillator, intubating the patient, or giving him medications such as epinephrine). When you perform CPR, you only keep them oxygenated until they get there.

But you still have an option to consider before the arrival of the ambulance: an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Devices, often provided in public places, will give you verbal instructions and only produce shock if the victim needs it. These guarantees mean that everyone can treat a patient.

"You have to be brave and use it," says Abella. "You can not hurt yourself."

Finally, a last encouragement. Research has shown that women who collapse in public are less likely to benefit from CPR. This may be due to the fact that passersby are hesitant to touch a woman's chest.

According to Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, Director of Cardiovascular Health, Women's Health and Welfare at Mount Sinai Hospital, men need to know that in this scenario they need to be able to perform CPR. .

"Ignore the anatomy of the outside," she says, pointing out that it is the heart that needs resuscitation. "You could be the only chance this woman has," says Steinbaum.