What Is the Purpose of CPR?


According to the American Heart Association statistics, since the 90s, the number of deaths attributed to cardiovascular diseases has risen by millions. Ischemic heart disease is the number one cause, followed by stroke and hypertensive heart disease.

Heart diseases often lead to cardiac arrest, which is why we must boost awareness in favor of their prevention. Performing CPR immediately on a person who experiences OHCA (out-of-hospital cardiac arrest) is the only way to increase their chances of survival.

On that note, here’s all you need to know about the purpose of administering CPR in cases of sudden cardiac arrest and choking.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest vs. Heart Attack

Before we elaborate more on the subject, let’s first explain the main difference between a sudden cardiac arrest and a heart attack.

Although they might seem similar on paper, cardiac arrest and heart attack are two different medical emergencies. Namely, a heart attack is related to the blockage of blood flow to the heart, while a sudden cardiac arrest implies just that – a sudden stoppage of the heart.

The main symptoms of a sudden cardiac arrest include heart palpitations, no pulse, cessation of breathing, and loss of consciousness. On the other hand, heart attack symptoms involve shortness of breath, chest pain, and pain in the neck, arms, back, or jaw.

Coronary heart diseases are generally the leading cause of heart attacks. At the same time, many factors can trigger a sudden cardiac arrest, such as hereditary diseases, a previous heart attack, or an enlarged heart.

That said, people who experience a heart attack are still breathing and are conscious, which means that performing CPR is not necessary in this case. Instead, the individual should be taken to the hospital immediately because a heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest.

Now that you understand the difference between the two terms, here’s what you need to know about the main purposes of CPR.

The Purpose of CPR in Cases of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a procedure performed to manually restore heart and breathing function to a person who has experienced respiratory and/or cardiac arrest. It involves giving 30 hands-only chest compressions, followed by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

While this procedure won’t restart someone’s heart, since this can be done only by using an automated external defibrillator (AED), it will provide enough oxygen to the brain, heart, and other vital organs, keeping the patient alive until help arrives.

In other words, the main purpose of cardiopulmonary resuscitation is to mimic the pumping of the heart, which will delay tissue death and avoid brain damage. By performing CPR immediately after the incident occurs, you can double someone’s survival odds.

Keep in mind that implementing this emergency procedure is not an easy task. It requires physical strength and a significant amount of effort. Moreover, the victim of cardiac arrest rarely regains consciousness during the procedure.

For cardiopulmonary resuscitation to be successful, you must begin the procedure within a couple of minutes of the incident.

Possible Complications During CPR Performance

As mentioned above, performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation can be a daunting task since it requires both skill and physical strength. On that note, it can sometimes cause rib or sternum fractures, chest bleeding, heart bruising, and lung damage. However, these incidents only occur in 2% of cases.

The Purpose of CPR in Cases of Respiratory Arrest and Choking

The term respiratory arrest indicates that a person has stopped breathing and their brain is no longer receiving oxygen. While their pulse can still be regular, a respiratory arrest is often followed by a cardiac arrest; therefore, it’s vital to react immediately.

However, in this case, administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation is not necessary. Instead, you should perform BLS. The BLS, or basic life support technique involves opening the patient’s airway, applying bag-mask ventilation, and providing mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing.

On the other hand, you should perform CPR in cases of choking since chest compressions can force the foreign object out of the person’s airway.

CPR vs. The Heimlich Maneuver

To know which technique to use to help the victims of choking, you first need to understand the difference between these two terms.

On that note, the main objective of performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a choking victim is to provide oxygen by rescue breathing, while the Heimlich maneuver involves the use of abdominal thrusts to help the victim expel the foreign object.

Furthermore, the Heimlich maneuver is performed on conscious victims, while CPR is administered on unconscious individuals.

Besides choking and cardiac arrest, performing CPR is also advisable in cases of a drug overdose, injuries or accidents, excessive bleeding, and bloodstream infections.

The Purpose of Using Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

According to multiple studies, a sudden cardiac arrest victim’s chances of surviving the attack increase significantly once an AED is included.

With that in mind, the purpose of using an automated external defibrillator, or AED, is to help the victim of a sudden cardiac arrest restore a normal heartbeat. In other words, these portable devices work by sending electrical shocks to the heart to help re-establish its rhythm. They are also used in cases of arrhythmia and uneven heartbeats.

AEDs are programmed to provide a series of 3 shocks, after which the rescuer should take a 1-minute pause to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which involves chest compressions and ventilation.

Automated external defibrillators can be semi-automated or fully automated. The former are manual, which means that the device will warn the user when to deliver a shock, while the former will administer the shock automatically.

In addition to that, you’ll find two types of AEDs – public access AEDs, which are designed for laypeople, and professional use AEDs, which are designed for emergency medical technicians and doctors.

When Should You Stop Performing CPR?

Now that you know what CPR’s main purpose is, you should also know when you should stop performing it:

In Cases of Evident Death and Traumatic Arrests

There is no point in administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the victim of a cardiac arrest has been unresponsive for a long time. Moreover, performing CPR on victims of major traumatic arrests is also counter-intuitive, since these injuries are often fatal. Major traumatic arrests can involve amputation or decapitation.

In Cases of Physical Exhaustion

Performing CPR can be tiresome since it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour until the victim responds. If you feel physical exhaustion, you should stop administering CPR. If you’re a bystander, this will not get you in any trouble since you’ll be protected by the Good Samaritan Law.

If the Victim Shows Signs of Life

You should stop performing CPR if you notice the person shows the following signs of life:


      • They are making intentional movements

      • They start making sounds

      • They start blinking and looking around.

    However, you should continue administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the victim becomes unresponsive and stops breathing again.


    The main purpose of performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR on an unresponsive person is to restore the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the lungs, brain, heart, and other vital organs.

    This technique is performed manually, by giving hands-only chest compressions and administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

    In fact, performing CPR immediately after a person suffers from a cardiac arrest, or within 6 minutes of the incident, will delay tissue death and avoid brain damage. This way, you’ll keep the victim alive until the arrival of emergency medical services.

    You can also administer CPR on choking victims to help them get the foreign object out of their airways. However, if a person suffers from respiratory arrest, you should replace CPR with BLS.

    Regarding automated external defibrillators, their purpose is to restore a normal heartbeat by sending electrical shocks to the heart. After administering a series of 3 shocks, you should pause to perform CPR for at least 60 seconds before continuing to use the defibrillator.

    That said, you should stop performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation if the victim has been unresponsive for a long time, in cases of traumatic arrests, such as amputation or decapitation, if the person starts showing signs of life, or if you feel physical exhaustion.