Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is the act of reviving someone whose heart and/or breathing have stopped. CPR (sometimes called a “code”) can include basic and advanced measures.


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The basic measures are:

  • Cardiac compression (repeatedly pressing on the chest to squeeze the heart so that blood begins to circulate again)
  • Mouth-to-mouth breathing, to push air into the lungs
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The advanced measures are:

  • Intubation (putting a tube through the mouth or nose into the windpipe) and attaching a machine or device to do artificial breathing
  • Defibrillation (powerful electrical shocks to the chest to start the heart beating again)
  • Strong medications

The success of CPR often depends on the individual’s previous health and on how soon the procedure is started. The best results occur in a generally healthy person whose heart stops unexpectedly, and when CPR is started promptly. 

The chance of restarting the heart is much less likely when it has stopped as the result of many chronic problems.

Prompt CPR can save a person’s life and prevent damage to the body’s tissue and organs. On the other hand, brain damage is likely if more than about four minutes have elapsed before the procedure is started. 

Modern hospitals and nursing homes automatically attempt CPR on anyone whose heart and/or breathing stops, unless there is a Do Not Resuscitate — or “DNR” order — on file for the patient.

 A DNR order (also called a “no code”) can only be written by a doctor with the permission of the patient, his or her health care agent or the family.

Note: A DNR order is not the same thing as an advance directive. If you want to limit CPR, your doctor must write a separate DNR order.



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