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Save a life, learn CPR.

June 25, 2008

Shehnaz Hassan, MD

If someone collapses, what should you do? Don't panic. You can help.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) should not intimidate you. There are new simple steps that you can easily learn to save someone's life. CPR is used for a person that is in cardiac arrest, which means that their heart has stopped and they are not breathing. Sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the US and Canada. Approximately 250,000 people die annually from coronary heart disease before reaching a hospital which puts you on the so called, "front lines". Good quality CPR improves a victim's chances of survival. Just remember, you can help.

CPR consists of the ABCD's: Airways, Breathing, Circulation, Defibrillation
A stands for Airway. Which means opening the victims airway using a head tilt- chin lift, shown in the video link.
B stands for Breathing. Which means check if the victim is breathing by looking for chest expansion, listening and feeling for breath.
C stands for Circulation. Which means check victim for a pulse best done with two fingers on one side of the individuals neck along side their "adam's apple".
D stands for Difibrillation. Defibrillation is essentially shocking a persons heart using a machine called an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). An AED is a computerized device that is simple to operate and usually located all over airports, malls, casinos, schools, and many other places. AEDs are only used when victims have ALL of the following: NO response, NO breathing, and NO pulse. The beauty is that the machine will know weather or not to shock the individual when it performs the "analyze" function. So, if there is an AED around, get it.

Now don't worry if you don't know how to use it. All you have to do is "POWER ON" the AED. This will activate the voice prompts and it will guide you through all the steps. Ideally, someone can help with placement of the AED pads while chest compressions and breathing continue interupted only by analysis and delivery of the shock. Both analysis and shock if necessary, will take only a few seconds.

IMPORTANT: do not touch any part of the patient when the shock is delivered and immediately begin CPR with chest compressions after the shock.

So now that you know the ABC's. Let's put it all together.

If a person collapses:
1. Check for response (Shout and shake "are you alright?")
2. Call for help and AED (if available), ideally someone else can call 911 and get the AED so you can begin. You will need to do this first if you are alone.
3. Open victim's airway (A) by performing head tilt-chin lift
4. Look, listen, and feel for signs of breathing (B)
5. If not breathing, Give 2 breaths (don't forget to pinch nose)
6. Check for pulse (C) on the neck with two fingers
7. If you do not definitely feel a pulse, place hand in middle of chest and start compressions (hard and fast)
8. Give 30 compressions then 2 breaths
9. Repeat this cycle of 30:2 until help arrives or AED (D) arrives

This video lasts less than a minute. It will show you how to properly perform these steps.
Click here to view video

Studies consistently show that bystander CPR has a significant positive effect on survival. Starting basic CPR quickly helps improve survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. So don't be afraid to help. Even if you just compress the chest without breathing because for personal reasons you refuse to breath into someone mouth, the compressions alone will still help!

Congratulations, you have learned how to perform CPR. You now have the tools necessary to SAVE A LIFE!

This is not a substitute for official Basic Life Support (BLS) certification.
(Click here to find out about getting an official certification)


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