6 When things go wrong

6.2 Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

The immediate treatment given when the heart stops beating is cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). (Pulmonary refers to the lungs.) Outside the hospital setting, first aid is required in the first instance. It is important to keep the heart beating artificially by CPR to circulate oxygenated blood to the brain, otherwise irreversible brain damage can be caused within minutes.

The Red Cross, an international charity, publishes the commonly adopted first aid guidelines and these have recently been revised (see Figure 11). These guidelines are set by the International Liason Committee on Resuscitation (represented in the UK by the Resuscitation Council UK). They do occasionally make adjustments to them, so it is important to try to keep your knowledge current by visiting their website (British Red Cross, 2007) or refreshing any first aid qualifications you have every few years.

Figure 11: The current (2007) first aid guidelines recommended by the British Red Cross, available from their website