Overview of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), also called basic life support, is an emergency medical procedure performed to restore blood flow (circulation) and breathing. "Cardio-" refers to heart function and "pulmonary" refers to lung function. CPR is a combination of chest compressions and rescue breathing (i.e., mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or ventilation).
Serious injuries and medical conditions, such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), severe respiratory infections, and neurological and heart disorders, can cause a child to stop breathing (called respiratory arrest) and his or her heart to stop beating (called cardiac arrest). When the brain is without oxygen, permanent brain damage and death can occur in a matter of minutes.
The goal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is to provide oxygen quickly to the brain, heart, lungs, and other organs until normal heart and lung function is restored. CPR can help prevent brain damage and death in a child who experiences cardiopulmonary arrest.
Type of injuries that may require CPR and commonly occur in children and adolescents include the following:
- Motor vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and firearm accidents
- Severe burns
- Smoke inhalation
Although basic life support often is presented in steps, the procedure actually is a continuous series of assessments (e.g., Is the child in a safe area? Is the child breathing?) and interventions (e.g., call 911, perform chest compressions, clear the child's airway, begin rescue breathing). Reading about CPR can provide a basic understanding of the procedure; however, it is important for parents and caregivers to take a CPR course to learn when and how to perform the procedure correctly.