Does CPR cause Broken Ribs?

Giving effective CPR requires rescuers to deliver ‘hard and fast’ chest compressions to victims of sudden cardiac arrest. Many people worry about the risk of causing broken ribs when they give CPR. So, does CPR cause broken ribs?

CPR can cause broken (fractured) ribs. Broken ribs occur due to the force required in order to give effective chest compressions. In order for CPR to be effective, chest compressions should be given at a depth of 5 – 6cm for adult victims. The speed of chest compressions needs to be between 100 – 120 per minute.

CPR can cause broken ribs

Due to the depth required, the chest wall is put under a lot of pressure during each chest compression. This pressure drives blood around the body and is vital to maintain circulation when carrying out CPR. However, the forces can cause rib and breastbone (sternum) fractures in the victim.

Do not worry about causing broken ribs when giving CPR!

Rib injuries, including broken ribs, can be found in many victims of cardiac arrest who have received cardiopulmonary resuscitation. These injuries can be managed and treated by medical staff. However, if the victim does not receive effective CPR then they are unlikely to survive. There’s no point in having unbroken ribs if you are not alive!

What if I feel a rib break when giving CPR?

If you feel a rib break when giving CPR then check your hands are positioned in the correct place. They should be in the center of the chest. If your hands are in the correct place, continue giving CPR! Do not stop or delay chest compressions. Aim for a depth of 5 – 6cm with each compression and a rate of 100 – 120 per minute.

Feeling broken ribs when giving CPR can be unpleasant for rescuers. It is important to remember the overall goal of CPR is to save life. Do not be put off by broken ribs, continue giving high-quality chest compressions until advanced medical help arrives.

John Furst

JOHN FURST is an experienced emergency medical technician and qualified first aid & CPR instructor. John is passionate about first aid and believes everyone should have the skills and confidence to take action in an emergency situation.

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