How do I do CPR?

 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine

Guidelines on what a rescuer should do when cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is needed have changed. If you are untrained in CPR the new guidelines state that you should start chest compressions immediately and follow instructions when given by an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) dispatcher. If you are CPR trained and able you should begin with chest compressions and then add rescue breathing, following current CPR guidelines. Research has shown that when chest compressions are given immediately to a cardiac arrest (unresponsive/not breathing) victim, the chance of survival is improved.

To perform Chest-Compression-Only CPR on an adult:

  • Be sure you are safe.
  • Tap and shout "Are you OK?" to assess responsiveness and look to see if the person is breathing -- gasping is not breathing.
  • If unresponsive, have someone call EMS and get an automated external defibrillator (AED) while you start chest compressions.
  • Position the victim flat on a firm surface with head at the same level as the heart. Open chest clothing.
  • Kneel facing the victim's chest. Using your hand nearest the victim's legs, locate the center of the chest, between the nipples on the victim's breastbone.
  • Place the heel of your other hand on top of the hand on the chest. With shoulders back, straighten your arms, lean directly over the person, and lock your elbows.
  • Use straight-down pressure through both arms to push the breastbone down toward the spine, at least 2 in./5 cm. Push hard and fast at rate of 100 compressions a minute (100/min.). Allow chest to recoil between compressions. Don't stop compressions unless absolutely necessary.
  • You may be directed by an EMS dispatcher to perform rescue breaths.
  • If a CPR barrier mask isn't available and you have any worries about giving rescue breathing or consider the victim at high risk for disease transmission say so. Your own safety is a priority.
Doc's First Aid Guide: Read It Before You Need It

More About this Book

Doc's First Aid Guide: Read It Before You Need It

In a medical emergency, time is of the essence. "Doc's First Aid Guide" is an illustrated, first-aid pocket handbook designed to be used as a quick reference and includes the latest CPR guidelines....

Continue Learning about First Aid Techniques

How do you perform CPR chest compressions on an infant?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
Give 30 chest compressions using the pads of these fingers to compress the chest.  Compress the c...
More Answers
How should I calm someone having a heart attack?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
Be calm and reassuring. Comforting the person helps to reduce anxiety and eases some of the disc...
More Answers
What three things keep the right amount of blood flowing in the body?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
The heart must be working well An adequate amount of oxygen-rich blood must be circulating in the ...
More Answers
How do I give rescue breaths to an infant when performing CPR?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
After giving 30 chest compressions, give 2 rescue breaths, covering the infant’s mouth and nose wi...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.