Tried and True

In one form or another, CPR has been in use since 1740 [source: American Heart Association].

CPR Basics

CPR is a first-aid technique used to keep victims of sudden cardiac arrest and other emergencies alive and to prevent brain damage until more advanced medical professionals can arrive. Traditional CPR has two goals: to keep oxygen flowing in and out of the lungs and to keep oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body.

While the modern emergency room has high-tech equipment and an arsenal of drugs to help treat people who are experiencing heart and breathing emergencies, CPR is a simple technique most anyone can do with little or no equipment.

There are different types of CPR, and the one you perform on a person depends on your level of training and your access to additional lifesaving aids. The following are varying levels of CPR broken down by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Untrained persons -- If you've never been taught CPR, you should perform hands-only resuscitation (we'll discuss this more in detail later), which requires applying uninterrupted chest compressions at a rate of approximately 100 compressions a minute until emergency personnel arrive.
  • Trained, but rusty -- If you've been trained in CPR but are unsure of your skills, experts recommend that you use the hands-only method.
  • Trained and confident -- If you've taken a CPR class and are prepared to administer resuscitation, you should perform compression CPR in coordination with rescue breathing.
  • Trained with access to an automatic external defibrillator -- Deliver one shock with the AED according to the device's instructions and then begin CPR.

When it comes to CPR, comprehensive training is ideal, but even some knowledge is better than no knowledge at all. In fact, hands-only CPR is just as effective as traditional CPR in the first few minutes following an attack [source: Mayo Clinic]. In the next section, we'll go over the step-by-step basics of CPR so you can be better prepared to help others in case of emergency.