Health Encyclopedia

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

What is CPR?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is given when someone's breathing or pulse stops. If both have stopped, then sudden death has occurred. Some of the causes of sudden death include poisoning, drowning, choking, suffocation, electrocution, or smoke inhalation. But, the most common cause of sudden death is from heart attack.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

These are the most common symptoms of a heart attack. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Severe pressure, fullness, squeezing, pain, or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes

  • Pain or discomfort that spreads to the shoulders, neck, arms, or jaw

  • Chest pain that increases in intensity

  • Chest pain that is not relieved by rest or by taking prescription heart medicine

  • Chest pain that occurs with any or all of the following (additional) symptoms of a heart attack:

    • Sweating, cool, clammy skin, and/or paleness

    • Shortness of breath

    • Nausea or vomiting

    • Dizziness or fainting

    • Unexplained weakness or fatigue

    • Rapid or irregular pulse

Although chest pain is the key warning sign of a heart attack, it may be confused with indigestion, lung conditions, or other disorders. It is important to note that not all of these symptoms are present in every heart attack.

If you or someone you know has any of the above warning signs, act immediately. Call 911, or your local emergency number. If needed, give CPR if you are trained, or ask someone who is. CPR certification means you have had the necessary training and practice and can comfortably do this lifesaving technique.

How can I be trained in CPR?

Both the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association give excellent training programs in CPR, which helps to save thousands of lives each year. Ask your doctor or healthcare provider for more information on becoming trained in CPR.

About hands-only CPR

When a person collapses suddenly and isn't breathing or has no pulse, bystanders are often reluctant to assist with CPR for fear of doing it wrong or making the situation worse. Because less than one-third of sudden cardiac arrest victims receive CPR before they get to the hospital, the American Heart Association is promoting hands-only CPR. The technique consists of 2 steps: call 911, then push hard and fast in the center of the victim's chest. Hands-only CPR can help a heart attack victim survive 3 to 5 minutes long--possibly enough time until emergency medical services arrive.



Medical Reviewers:

  • Brown, Kim, APRN
  • Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.