Should You Do CPR or AED First?

Reviewed on 3/8/2021

CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure used if a person's heart stops beating or breathing ceases. An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable device used to treat people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack), which is potentially fatal. Before administering CPR or using an AED, you should always call 911.
CardioPulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure used if a person’s heart stops beating or breathing ceases. An Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is a portable device used to treat people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest (heart attack), which is potentially fatal. Before administering CPR or using an AED, you should always call 911.

Always call 911 first before administering CPR or using an AED.

Timing of the use of an AED first depends on how accessible an AED is. 

If an AED is immediately accessible, get the AED and use it right away. However, in all likelihood, there will not be an AED close enough and CPR should be started first. 

If there is only one person present, that person should start CPR right away and continue until first responders arrive. 

If there is more than one person present, one person can begin administering CPR while another person gets the AED. 

Once an AED is in place, follow prompts and deliver a shock if instructed to do so. After delivering the shock, begin CPR. 

What Is CPR and What Is It Used For?

CPR stands for CardioPulmonary Resuscitation, which is an emergency procedure used if a person’s heart stops beating or breathing ceases. 

CPR is a combination of chest compressions and artificial ventilation (breathing) to save a person’s life. When performed right away, it can increase a person’s chances of survival after cardiac arrest.

What Is an AED and What Is It Used For?

AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator, which is a portable device used to treat people suffering from sudden cardiac arrest, a potentially fatal condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating correctly. 

An AED analyzes the heart's rhythm and when necessary, delivers an electrical shock (defibrillation) to help the heart get back into a normal rhythm.

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How Is CPR Performed?

The American Red Cross guidelines for performing CPR are as follows:

Before Giving CPR

  • Check the scene and the person
    • Make sure the scene is safe
    • Tap the person on the shoulder and shout, "Are you OK?" to make sure the person needs help
  • Call 911 for assistance
    • If it's clear the person needs help, call 911 (or ask a bystander to call), then send someone to get an AED
    • If an AED is not available or a there is no bystander to access it, stay with the victim, call 911, and get ready to give assistance 
  • Open the airway
    • With the person lying on his or her back, tilt the head back slightly to lift the chin
  • Check for breathing
    • Listen carefully, for no more than 10 seconds, for sounds of breathing (occasional gasping sounds do not equate to breathing) 
    • If there is no breathing, begin CPR

Red Cross CPR Steps

  • Begin chest compressions
    • Place your hands, one on top of the other, in the middle of the chest
    • Push hard, push fast: use your body weight to help administer compressions at least 2 inches deep and delivered at a rate of at least 100 compressions per minute
  • Deliver rescue breaths 
    • With the person's head tilted back slightly and the chin lifted, pinch the nose shut and place your mouth over the person's mouth to make a complete seal
    • Blow into the person's mouth to make the chest rise
    • Deliver two rescue breaths, then continue compressions
    • Note: If the chest does not rise with the initial rescue breath, re-tilt the head before delivering the second breath. If the chest doesn't rise with the second breath, the person may be choking. After each subsequent set of 30 chest compressions, and before attempting breaths, look for an object and, if seen, remove it.
    • Note: Rescue breaths are recommended by the American Red Cross. The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 and delivering chest compressions only.
  • Continue CPR steps
    • Continue with cycles of chest compressions and breathing until: 
      • The person exhibits signs of life, such as breathing
      • An AED becomes available
      • EMS or a trained medical responder arrives on scene
    • Note: End the cycles if the scene becomes unsafe or you are unable to continue performing CPR due to exhaustion

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Reviewed on 3/8/2021
References
https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/cpr/performing-cpr/cpr-steps

https://cpr.heart.org/

https://cpr.heart.org/en/cpr-courses-and-kits/hands-only-cpr

https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/aed/using-an-aed/aed-steps