How to perform CPR - Adults & Older Children

How to perform CPR on adults and older children
How to perform CPR on adults and older children

If you’re in an emergency, call (000)

Find out how to perform CPR on an adult or older child (over 8 years old) by following the guide below. You can also go to specific guides on CPR for children, infants and during pregnancy.

Please note, the information provided below is not a substitute for first aid training.

Adult Basic Life Support - DRSABCD Flowchar
Adult Basic Life Support - DRSABCD Flowchar

How to determine if CPR is necessary

The DRSABCD action plan is a structured way of assisting a casualty. It includes vital steps such as assessing for danger, checking for a response, sending for help, clearing and opening the airway, and checking for breathing.

The Basic Life Support chart below shows all the critical steps leading up to performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

critical steps leading up to performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation - Adult BLS Chart (A2 & smaller)

Step-by-step guide

After having followed the DRSABCD plan, follow the steps below.

CPR is performed at a ratio of 30:2 (30 chest compressions + 2 rescue breaths).

Chest compressions

1. Place the casualty on a firm surface on their back. Kneel beside them. 2. Place the heel of one hand on the lower half of the sternum.

CPR Guide: Chest compressions - positioning your hand

3. Place your other hand on top. Straighten your arms and position yourself over the casualty’s chest. 4. Use the weight of your body to press straight down onto their chest by ⅓ the depth of their chest, which is generally more than 5 cm.

CPR Guide: Chest compressions - body position
5. Release the pressure. Allow for a full chest recoil by lifting your hands slightly off the chest between each compression. Pressing down and releasing comprises one compression. The time spent on chest compressions and release phases should be equal. 6. Perform 30 chest compressions hard and fast, at a rate of almost 2 compressions per second or 100-120 per minute. It is helpful to count aloud.

Rescue breaths (mouth-to-mouth)

After the 30 compressions, give 2 rescue breaths. 1. Open the casualty's airway. Ensure the head is tilted back and the chin is lifted by placing one hand on their forehead and the other hand under their chin to tilt the head back.

CPR Guide: Rescue breaths - tilting head
2. Use your index finger and thumb to pinch closed the soft part of the casualty’s nose. Use your other hand to open the casualty’s mouth.
CPR Guide: Rescue breaths - open airways
3. Take a breath and with your mouth form a tight seal over the casualty’s mouth. Blow at a steady rate for about 1 second, and look for the chest to rise. Now look for the chest to fall. Repeat and give a second rescue breath.
CPR Guide: Rescue breaths - mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
If the chest does not rise, make sure:

  • The casualty is positioned properly.
  • The airway is not obstructed by a foreign body - if it is - remove it.
  • The nose is pinched closed to prevent any air from escaping and you maintain a tight seal with the casualty’s mouth.

One cycle of CPR consists of 30 compressions + 2 rescue breaths. Keep repeating this process and aim to do 5 cycles of CPR in roughly 2 minutes. Giving life-saving CPR is tiring. If you have another person to help you, swap with minimal interruption, so they give compressions and rescue breaths every 5 cycles.

Using an AED

Where an AED is available, turn it on and attach pads or have a bystander attach them so you can continue doing compressions. Follow the AED’s instructions. An AED will analyse heart rhythm every 2 minutes. It may or may not give a shock. Continue to give CPR in between each analysis cycle. Find out more about using an AED.

AED pad positions for man and woman

Continue performing CPR until:

  • the person responds or resumes breathing normally
  • it is impossible to continue e.g. due to exhaustion
  • a health care professional takes over or directs that CPR be ceased (don't stop until they tell you)
  • it is too dangerous to continue

If the casualty resumes normal breathing then place them in the Recovery Position and monitor breathing until help arrives.

Adult recovery position

Exposing the torso of female patients

Clothing needs to be removed from the chest before performing CPR or using an AED, so placement of hands (CPR) or electrode pads (AED) is not compromised.

The prevailing circumstance is that the person’s life is hanging in the balance. Cultural sensitivity and dignity are important but preserving life is the top priority. If there are bystanders, you can ask them to respect the victim by clearing the area or at the very least turning away. The only witnesses should be those helping the victim. Obviously photos and videos would be discouraged. If there is a female first aider and a male first aider at the scene, it would be prudent for the female to manage first aid.

Hands are placed at the centre of the chest on the lower half of the breastbone. AED pads are placed, one on the upper right chest, the other on the lower left side of the chest, along the ribs.

When a bra is removed, breasts naturally fall to the sides, allowing for proper hand placement without needing to touch them. In the case of a person with large breasts, the left breast may need to be lifted for proper pad placement. Use the back of the hand to lift the breast while placing the pad. Metal in an underwire bra can potentially interfere with the shock an AED delivers, meaning it may not work when the bra is left on the patient. This would also apply to metal body jewellery. If possible, everything metal should be removed from the chest area. Once proper placement of pads is done, available clothing can be draped over the chest to preserve modesty.

Adult CPR chart (printable A2 & smaller)

DisclaimerThis article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, replace, or qualify as any form of first aid training.

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Other CPR Resources

Visit the Australia Wide First Aid CPR Library for even more information, guides and downloadable resources.

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