CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is an emergency lifesaving procedure that is done when someone's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. This may happen after an electric shock, heart attack, or drowning.
CPR combines rescue breathing and chest compressions.
Rescue breathing provides oxygen to the person's lungs.
Chest compressions keep oxygen-rich blood flowing until the heartbeat and breathing can be restored.
Permanent brain damage or death can occur within minutes if blood flow stops. Therefore, it is very important that blood flow and breathing be continued until trained medical help arrives.
CPR techniques vary slightly depending on the age or size of the patient. The newest techniques emphasize compression over rescue breathing and airway, reversing long-standing practice.
Hazinski MF, Samson R, Schexnayder S. 2010 Handbook of Emergency Cardiovascular Care for Healthcare Providers. American Heart Association; 2010.
Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington, Clinic. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.