When you attend a first aid or CPR course you might ask yourself, “if I start CPR, how long do I perform CPR for?” Where is that point where you realise CPR hasn’t worked? “How will I know that the person isn’t coming back to life?”
These are the questions I frequently hear on first aid courses, and they are excellent questions. The answer you would be given on a course is that you continue CPR until:
- the person comes back to life
- the paramedics arrive to take over from you
- or you physically are completely unable to carry on
Why don’t you just give up after 10, 20, 30 minutes when it seems clear the person isn’t coming back to life?
The answer is that the goal of CPR is not really to bring a person back to life.
The goal of CPR is to delay brain injury and tissue death.
Our main goal in CPR as we push on the victims chest is to pump blood around the body, which carries oxygen to the brain. As long as oxygen is getting to the brain, the brain cells won’t die, and there is still a chance once the paramedics arrive with their equipment and medications, they will be able to revive the person. In a way, while we are performing CPR on a victim they are neither dead or alive. As soon as we stop they are effectually dead. This is why we keep going. This is why it doesn’t matter if we see no signs of life and perform CPR for 45 minutes before the ambulance arrive. As long as we perform the role of the heart and pump oxygen to the brain, there is still a chance the person can be revived.
If you were ever in the situation of needing to perform CPR on a person – just keep going! The current records of time CPR performed and the person surviving are in first place: a man in Minnesota 96 minutes! and runner up; a man in Washington 86 minutes CPR.