CPR FAQ's

Q.) What is CPR?
A.) CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and encompasses all of the first aid procedures involved in the process from basic first aid to the most advanced professional medical care that is used to restore breathing and circulation to a patient once this has stopped.

CPR to a layperson or bystander can involve keeping someone alive until the medical professionals arrive. This is commonly seen by delivering chest compressions in order to pump blood around the body when the heart has stopped doing this job, rescue breaths are also delivered in order to continue providing oxygen - these are also know as the kiss of life.

Q.) What is a cardiac arrest?
A.) A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart suddenly stops pumping blood around the body, it is often unexpected and once someone falls ill due to suffering a cardiac arrest, you must act quickly. A cardiac arrest can happen for a number of reasons with one common factor being that there has been a loss of electrical coordination that controls the hearts regular rhythm.

Cardiac arrests can be treated with a defibrillator which shocks the heart back into it’s correct rhythm. They are extremely user friendly meaning anyone can deliver life saving care, they also have impressive survival rates as they vastly improved the chances of survival after a patient has suffered a cardiac arrest.

Q.) Is a heart attack the same as a cardiac arrest?
A.) Contrary to common belief, a heart attack and a cardiac arrest are very different things. A heart attack occurs when an artery, supply the hear with blood becomes blocked, this leads to chest pain and damage to some of the hearts muscle however, many patients recover from suffering a heart attack. Diet and lifestyle is often a large factor that contributes to someone suffering a heart attack.

A cardiac arrest on the other hand is often unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any time, without warning. It is usually down to the electrical rhythms in the heart and once someone suffers a cardiac arrest, they will usually fall unconscious quickly. This is where quick CPR and defibrillation is needed.

Q.) How effective is CPR?
A.) CPR can keep a person alive for several minutes whilst the emergency services arrive. Delivering chest compressions means that the body is still having blood pumped around it whilst also giving vital oxygen to the organs and the brain - without this a patient could suffer great, irreversible injuries such as brain damage. Although CPR itself will not restart a heart, it will increase the survival rate by double making it an effective, life saving tool.

Q.) Is compression only CPR effective?
A.) Compression only CPR refers to when someone delivers the chest compressions involved in CPR but, without the resuscitation breaths. For many adults who suffer from a cardiac arrest, the heart stops suddenly so prior to the incident, their breathing would have been normal meaning their blood should be well oxygenated making compression only CPR rather effective in the first few minutes of emergency care. However, ultimately in order for the victim to have the best chance of survival, delivering rescue breaths whilst also giving chest compressions means oxygen will still be delivered to their vital organs.

It is also important to remember that if a cardiac arrest occurs by a lack of oxygen such as drowning, compression only CPR will be much less effective. The recommended and ideal method of delivering CPR is to give a mixture of chest compressions followed by a rescue breath in order for it to be it’s most effective.

Q) How to tell if someone has had a cardiac arrest?
A.) When a cardiac arrest occurs, the heart stops meaning that blood is no longer being delivered to the brain and the person will become unconscious and be unresponsive, their breathing also stops however, this may take a few minutes.

During the first few minutes of someone suffering a cardiac arrest, they may make noisy, infrequent gasps for breath but the key feature to note when someone is suffering from a cardiac arrest is that they will fall unconscious and not be breathing normally.

If there are any doubts, it is always best to call the emergency services on 999, start CPR and if there is a defibrillator nearby, use it.

Q) What is the chain of survival?
A.) The chain of survival highlights a list of sequences that together, increase the chance of survival after suffering a cardiac arrest. This starts with initially quickly recognising the signs and acknowledging that someone is suffering from a cardiac arrest. Next is the prompt delivery of CPR followed by defibrillation as soon as possible with the final step being optimal post resuscitation care in hospital.

The chances of survival are the best when every link of the chain is complete, if one is missing it is weakened meaning the chance of survival for a patient is lower.

Q.) What happens after a cardiac arrest?
A.) After a cardiac arrest, recovery does not happen immediately, staying is hospital is always required in order for a patient to receive further treatment and testing to establish the cause of the cardiac arrest in the first place.

Providing that great initial care is given with CPR and if a defibrillator is used, patients often make an impressive recovery.

Q.) How many people survive a cardiac arrest?
A.) In the UK, around 30,000 suffer a cardiac arrest outside of hospital. If CPR and defibrillation is not delivered in the first few minutes of someone suffering from a cardiac arrest, survival rates in the UK are as low as 10%.

Ensuring that this figure is improved is a huge priority for the health service and charities, all of whom are dedicated to educating people about what to do when someone suffers from a cardiac arrest and spreading the word so that as many people as possible across the country know what to do. Thankfully ,when fast CPR and defibrillation has been delivered to a victim, the chance of survival drastically increases with impressive survival rates in excess of 50% being recorded.

Q) Can someone be sued for delivering CPR?
A.) In the UK, it is highly unlikely that anyone who has acted in good faith to aid someone in need by delivering emergency CPR would be prosecuted. No action has ever been taken against anyone who has delivered it and in UK courts, someone CPR is always looked down on favourably. For additional help, the resuscitation council (UK) has published a detailed outline on the legal status for those who have delivered CPR.

Q) How can I be trained in CPR?
A.) Becoming trained in CPR is provided by a number of organisations all of who’s aim it is to raise awareness about first aid and who CPR can make the difference between life and death. There is a range of training which takes place from hands on practical CPR training on a manikin which is also backed up further teaching from a medical professional.

With over two million people attending hearstart courses and with restart a heart day occurring every year teaching hundreds of thousands of people how to administer CPR, these life saving skills are easy to learn and are memorable.

Q.) Is CPR delivered the same to adults and children?
A.) The main principles of CPR which involve maintaining the blood flow around the body and delivering oxygen to the organs and brain is the same for both adults and children. When a child suffers from a cardiac arrest however, many bypassers have opted against delivering CPR incase it isn’t the appropriate medical assistance to give to a child, this however is not the case. Administering CPR to a child is much more effective that not doing anything.

Slightly different techniques can be taught when giving CPR to a child to people such as healthcare workers but, these differences will not put a child in any more danger than they are already in. It is always important to remember that if CPR needs to be delivered, it should be regardless of whether the victim is an adult or a child.

Q.) How common is cardiac arrest in children?
A.) Around 270 children in the UK die every year from suffering a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). Although this sounds like a large number, fortunately SCAs in children are rare. A SCA is more common in boys than in girls and occurs more often after playing sports with warning symptoms including previous chest pains, shortness of breath, dizziness and near-collapse as well as a family history of heart disease sometimes playing a factor.

Although SCAs are uncommon in children they do still occur. Having defibrillators installed in schools gives you peace of mind should a child suffer a cardiac arrest, they will be able to receive the best medical care. There are many defibrillators on the market that are designed to be used on children. Child friendly defibrillators have smaller electrode pads and a lower shock frequency so they deliver the safest care when suffering a SCA.