How do I perform chest compressions on an adult?

 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine

To perform chest compressions on an adult:

  • 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 hand on the mid chest (lower half breastbone/sternum). Then place your other hand on top. With shoulders back, straighten your arms, lean directly over the person, and lock your elbows.
  • Use straight-down pressure through both arms to push breastbone down toward the spine, at least 2 in./5 cm. Push hard and fast at rate of 100/min.
  • Release pressure after each compression, but don't let your hands come off the victim's chest. Do not pause between compressions. The compressions should be smooth, regular, and uninterrupted. Compression and relaxation time should be equal.
  • After 30 compressions, breathe twice into the victim's mouth (each breath lasting 1 second).
  • Using your fingers (not thumb), gently feel the carotid artery on the victim's neck for no more than 10 seconds to find a pulse. (To find the carotid artery, put two fingers on the victim's Adam's apple [larynx]. Slide your fingers to the side and direct them into the groove between the windpipe and the muscle at the side of the neck. This is where the carotid artery is located.) Gently feel for a pulse.

If pulse is present but there is no breathing - Perform Rescue Breathing (give the victim 2 full breaths (1 second each), taking your lips off the victim's mouth to inhale between each breath) at a rate of one breath every 5-6 seconds (10-12/min) until breathing is restored or help arrives.

Remember: If no pulse is present - and medical help has been called, continue Chest Compressions until automated external defibrillator (AED) arrives.
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

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 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 is the proper technique for spine boarding?
National Athletic Trainers' AssociationNational Athletic Trainers' Association
Spine boarding is a technique that is used to transport an athlete for emergency care whenever a cer...
More Answers
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

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.