How to perform adult CPR

If you ever find yourself in an emergency situation where someone is ill or injured then you will need to perform a primary survey.

The primary survey is a quick way to assess casualties. It can easily be remembered by the letters D R A BIf you ever find yourself in an emergency situation then all you need to remember is DRAB and you will be able to systematically assess your patient and decide what to do.

D: Danger

Check to see if there are any dangers to yourself or the casualty. 

Try and make the scene as safe as possible, remember YOU are the most important person.

If the area is too dangerous then stay back and call the emergency services.

R: Response

Attempt to wake the person up by shouting loudly in both ears and tapping them on the shoulders
If you do not get a response, then the person is unconscious. So what exactly does this mean?

“complete or near-complete lack of responsiveness”

“unaware of both self and external surroundings”

The difference between being asleep and being unconsciousness is that an unconscious person will not wake up.

A key principle is that being unconsciousness is a medical emergency which requires immediate first aid intervention.

When someone goes unconscious, they loose muscle tone. This means they go all ‘floppy’ – like a rag doll. The tongue (a muscle) can block their airway when it looses muscle tone. This is known colloquially as “swallowing your own tongue”

In addition, loss of control over their stomach muscles can cause stomach contents (vomit) to travel back up to the throat which can block the airway

A variety of medical conditions and traumatic injuries can cause someone to become unconscious. However at this stage do not worry too much about trying to find out why they are unconscious, your immediate aim is to open their airway.

A: Airway

The airway is a series of tubes which caries air from your mouth & nose to your lungs. It can become blocked by the tongue and regurgitation of stomach contents. This will stop the casualty from breathing and can quickly cause death.
You need to open the airway by tilting the head backwards and lifting the chin with two fingers as demonstrated in the picture below.

B: Breathing

Keep your hands on the person’s head & chin. Place your cheek above their mouth and look at their chest.

Look, listen and feel for regular breathing for up to 10 seconds. You are assessing for normal breathing. The occasional gasping or snoring sound is not regular breathing and should be treated as no breathing.

You do not need to check for a pulse, as this often wastes valuable time. If a public defibrillator (AED) is available, then it should be sent for immediately.

Performing CPR on an adult

Once you’ve found someone isn’t breathing, you should start CPR by administering 30 chest compressions. Interlock your hands and place them in the middle of the person’s chest (over the sternum / breastbone) and push down 30 times. You should aim for a depth equal to a third the depth of their chest.

After 30 chest compressions, you should give 2 rescue breaths. Tilt the casualty’s head backwards, make a seal over their mouth and breath in twice. Each breath should only last about one second so as not to over inflate their lungs.

You should aim for a rate of 100 – 120 chest compressions a minute.

Young Woman Performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

If you wish, you can attempt two ‘rescue breaths’ after every 30 chest compressions. Tilt the casualty’s head backwards, make a seal over their mouth and blow in for approximately one second. However these are optional and chest compressions are the most important component of CPR.

Only stop CPR if:

  • The casualty shows signs of life: coughing, breathing etc.
  • You are asked to stop by a healthcare professional (ambulance crew etc.)
  • You become too exhausted to continue
  • The situation suddenly becomes too dangerous

Ideally, you should only carry out CPR for a couple of minutes before swapping with someone else. This is to ensure that the chest compressions remain effective

CPR demonstration video

Watch the following video which demonstrates CPR on an adult patient.

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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