The Emergency-Free Home - Cardiac arrest

Cardiac arrest is a condition in which the heart has stopped beating altogether or is beating so weakly or so irregularly that it cannot maintain proper blood circulation.

Common causes of cardiac arrest are heart attack, electric shock, hemorrhage, suffocation, and other forms of respiratory arrest Symptoms of cardiac arrest are unconsciousness, the absence of respiration and pulse, and the lack of a heartbeat or a heartbeat that is very weak or irregular.

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

If the victim of a medical emergency manifests signs of cardiac arrest, he or she should be given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which is a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Either one person or two can administer CPR The procedure can be done in a moving vehicle en route to the hospital.

It is assumed that the victim is lying down with mouth clear and air passage unobstructed. The chest compressions are given in the following way:

1. The heel of one hand with the heel of the other crossed over it should be placed on the bottom third of the breastbone. The hands should be pressed firmly down with arms straight, using enough force so that the breastbone moves about two inches toward the spine, if the victim is an adult. Pressure should not be applied directly on the ribs by the fingers.

2. The hands are then relaxed to allow the chest to expand.

3. If one person is doing both the chest compressions and the mouth-to-mouth respiration, he should interrupt the compressions after every 15 chest compressions and administer two very quick lung inflations to the victim.

4. The rescuer should try to make the rate of compression simulate restoration of the pulse rate. This is not always easily accomplished, but compression should reach 80 to 100 times per minute.

The technique for administering CPR to children is the same as that used for adults, except that much less pressure should be applied to a child's chest and, in the case of babies or young children, the rate of compression should be at least 100 times per minute and the pressure should be exerted with the tips of the fingers rather than the heel of the hand. Breaths should be administered after every fifth compression.


CPR can be damaging if applied improperly. Courses in emergency medical care offered by the American Red Cross and other groups are well worth taking. In an emergency in which CPR is called for, an untrained person should seek the immediate aid of someone trained in the technique before attempting it himself.

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