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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Technique for chest compressions in adult CPR

Taufiek K Rajab1*, Charles N Pozner2, Claudius Conrad3, Lawrence H Cohn4 and Jan D Schmitto5

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

3 Department of Surgery, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

4 Division of Cardiac Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

5 Department of Cardiac, Thoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany

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World Journal of Emergency Surgery 2011, 6:41  doi:10.1186/1749-7922-6-41

Published: 10 December 2011


Chest compressions have saved the lives of countless patients in cardiac arrest as they generate a small but critical amount of blood flow to the heart and brain. This is achieved by direct cardiac massage as well as a thoracic pump mechanism. In order to optimize blood flow excellent chest compression technique is critical. Thus, the quality of the delivered chest compressions is a pivotal determinant of successful resuscitation. If a patient is found unresponsive without a definite pulse or normal breathing then the responder should assume that this patient is in cardiac arrest, activate the emergency response system and immediately start chest compressions. Contra-indications to starting chest compressions include a valid Do Not Attempt Resuscitation Order. Optimal technique for adult chest compressions includes positioning the patient supine, and pushing hard and fast over the center of the chest with the outstretched arms perpendicular to the patient's chest. The rate should be at least 100 compressions per minute and any interruptions should be minimized to achieve a minimum of 60 actually delivered compressions per minute. Aggressive rotation of compressors prevents decline of chest compression quality due to fatigue. Chest compressions are terminated following return of spontaneous circulation. Unconscious patients with normal breathing are placed in the recovery position. If there is no return of spontaneous circulation, then the decision to terminate chest compressions is based on the clinical judgment that the patient's cardiac arrest is unresponsive to treatment. Finally, it is important that family and patients' loved ones who witness chest compressions be treated with consideration and sensitivity.