The ABCs (or CABs) of CPR: Understanding the Fundamental Steps


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving technique used in emergencies where a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped. Understanding the fundamental steps of CPR is essential for providing immediate assistance and increasing the chances of survival. In this blog post, we will explore the ABCs (or CABs) of CPR, as recommended by MyCPR NOW, providing valuable insights into each step to help you respond effectively in critical situations.

1. A (Airway):
The first step in CPR is to ensure an open airway. Follow these guidelines:

a. Position: Place the person on their back on a firm surface. Ensure they are lying flat with their head and neck in a neutral position.

b. Clear Obstructions: If there are visible obstructions, such as food or foreign objects, remove them using a finger sweep technique or appropriate tools.

c. Head Tilt-Chin Lift: Gently tilt the person's head backward while lifting their chin forward. This helps to open the airway and ensure proper alignment of the throat for effective breathing.

2. B (Breathing):
The second step involves checking for signs of breathing. Follow these steps:

a. Look, Listen, and Feel: Observe the person's chest for any visible movement, listen for breath sounds, and feel for airflow or movement of exhaled breath on your cheek.

b. Normal Breathing: If the person is breathing normally, position them in the recovery position and monitor their breathing until medical help arrives.

c. Absence of Breathing: If the person is not breathing or breathing abnormally, move on to the next step.

3. C (Circulation):
The third step is to assess the person's circulation and initiate chest compressions. Here's what to do:

a. Check for a Pulse: Locate the carotid artery in the neck and palpate for a pulse. If you are unable to find a pulse within 10 seconds, consider the person pulseless.

b. Begin Chest Compressions: Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person's chest, slightly above the lower half of the sternum. Place the other hand on top, interlacing the fingers. Keep your arms straight and position your shoulders directly above your hands. Push hard and fast, aiming for a depth of at least 2 inches (5 centimeters) with a rate of around 100 to 120 compressions per minute.

c. Chest Recoil: Allow the chest to fully recoil between compressions, maintaining a continuous rhythm of compressions and releases.

d. Minimize Interruptions: Minimize interruptions in chest compressions, except for essential tasks such as delivering rescue breaths or using an automated external defibrillator (AED) if available.

4. D (Defibrillation):
In some cases, defibrillation with an automated external defibrillator (AED) is required to restore the person's heart rhythm. Here's what you need to know:

a. AED Use: If an AED is available, turn it on and follow the voice prompts or visual instructions provided. Attach the pads to the person's bare chest as indicated, and ensure that everyone is clear of the person while the AED analyzes the heart rhythm.

b. Shockable Rhythms: If the AED advises a shock, ensure no one is touching the person and press the shock button as instructed.

c. Resume CPR: Following the shock, immediately resume chest compressions, starting with 30 compressions followed by two rescue breaths.

d. Follow AED Prompts: Continue to follow the AED's prompts until medical help arrives or signs of life return.


The ABCs (or CABs) of CPR provide a structured approach to responding in a cardiac arrest or other life-threatening emergencies. By understanding each step and following the recommended guidelines, you can provide immediate assistance and improve the chances of survival. Remember, the ABCs (or CABs) of CPR involve ensuring an open airway, checking for signs of breathing, assessing circulation, and, if necessary, using an automated external defibrillator (AED). Regular training, certification, and staying up-to-date with the latest CPR guidelines from trusted sources like MyCPR NOW are crucial for effectively applying these life-saving techniques.

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