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Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a procedure to support and maintain breathing and circulation for a
CPR is performed to restore and maintain breathing and circulation and to provide oxygen and blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs. CPR should be performed if a person is unconscious and not breathing. Respiratory and cardiac arrest can be caused by allergic reactions, an ineffective heartbeat, asphyxiation, breathing passages that are blocked, choking, drowning, drug reactions or overdoses, electric shock, exposure to cold, severe shock, or trauma. CPR can be performed by trained bystanders or healthcare professionals on infants, children, and adults. It should always be performed by the person on the scene who is most experienced in CPR.
CPR should never be performed on a healthy person because it can cause serious injury to a beating heart by interfering with normal heartbeats.
CPR is part of the emergency cardiac care system designed to save lives. Many deaths can be prevented by prompt recognition of the problem and notification of the emergency medical system (EMS), followed by early CPR, defibrillation (which delivers a brief electric shock to the heart in attempt to get the heart to beat normally), and advanced cardiac life support measures.
CPR must be performed within four to six minutes after cessation of breathing so as to prevent brain damage or death. It is a two-part procedure that involves rescue breathing and external chest compressions. To provide oxygen to a person's lungs, the rescuer administers mouth-to-mouth breaths, then helps circulate blood through the heart to vital organs by external chest compressions. Mouth-to-mouth breathing and external chest compression should be performed together, but if the rescuer is not strong enough to do both, the external chest compressions should be done. This is more effective than no resuscitation attempt, as is CPR that is performed "poorly."
When performed by a bystander, CPR is designed to support and maintain breathing and circulation until emergency medical personnel arrive and take over. When performed by healthcare personnel, it is used in conjunction with other basic and advanced life support measures.
According to the American Heart Association, early CPR and defibrillation combined with early advanced emergency care can increase survival rates for people with a type of abnormal heart beat called ventricular fibrillation by as much as 40%. CPR by bystanders may prolong life during deadly ventricular fibrillation, giving emergency medical service personnel time to arrive.
However, many CPR attempts are not ultimately successful in restoring a person to a good quality of life. Often, there is brain damage even if the heart starts beating again. CPR is therefore not generally recommended for the chronically or terminally ill or frail elderly. For these people, it represents a traumatic and not a peaceful end of life.
Each year, CPR helps save thousands of lives in the United States. More than five million Americans annually receive training in CPR through American Heart Association and American Red Cross courses. In addition to courses taught by instructors, the American Heart Association also has an interactive video called Learning System, which is available at more than 500 healthcare institutions. Both organizations teach CPR the same way, but use different terms. These organizations recommend that family members or other people who live with people who are at risk for respiratory or cardiac arrest be trained in CPR. A hand-held device called a CPR Prompt is available to walk people trained in CPR through the procedure, using American Heart Association guidelines. CPR has been practiced for more than 40 years.
Author Info: L. Fleming Fallon Jr., MD, DrPH, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002
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