What Does CAB Stand For In CPR?

What Does CAB Stand For in CPR?

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a life-saving technique used in emergencies to revive individuals experiencing cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. The traditional approach to CPR focused on the ABC sequence, which stands for Airway, Breathing, and Chest Compressions. However, in recent years, there has been a shift in the recommended sequence from ABC to CAB. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore what CAB stands for in CPR, why the change was made, and how it affects the way CPR is performed.

The Evolution of CPR: ABC to CAB

ABC: Airway, Breathing, Chest Compressions

For decades, the ABC sequence was the cornerstone of CPR:

  1. A (Airway): The first step was to check the victim's airway for obstructions, as a blocked airway could prevent effective breathing.
  2. B (Breathing): If the victim was not breathing or had ineffective breathing, rescuers were instructed to provide rescue breaths to deliver oxygen to the lungs.
  3. C (Chest Compressions): After addressing the airway and breathing, chest compressions were performed to circulate blood and oxygen to vital organs.

This sequence reflected the belief that addressing the airway and breathing were the initial priorities during a cardiac arrest event.

The Shift to CAB

In 2010, a significant change to the recommended sequence for CPR was made. It was updated its guidelines to emphasize CAB over ABC:

  1. C (Chest Compressions): The first and most critical step became chest compressions. Rescuers were advised to begin with high-quality chest compressions before checking for breathing or performing rescue breaths.
  2. A (Airway): After initiating chest compressions, rescuers were directed to open the victim's airway and check for any obstructions.
  3. B (Breathing): The final step was to provide rescue breaths. If a trained rescuer was willing and able to give breaths, they would do so after starting chest compressions.

The shift to CAB aimed to prioritize early and uninterrupted chest compressions, as research showed that effective compressions were crucial for maintaining blood circulation and improving survival rates during cardiac arrest.

What CAB Stands For in CPR

In the context of CPR, CAB stands for:

  • C (Chest Compressions): This is the first and most critical step in CPR. It involves delivering rhythmic compressions to the center of the victim's chest, aiming to maintain a compression rate of 100-120 compressions per minute and a compression depth of about 2 inches (for adults).
  • A (Airway): After initiating chest compressions, rescuers should open the victim's airway using techniques such as head-tilt chin-lift or jaw-thrust maneuvers. The goal is to ensure that the airway is clear and unobstructed.
  • B (Breathing): Providing rescue breaths is the final step in CAB. If a trained rescuer is willing and able to give breaths, they can do so after starting chest compressions. For laypersons or those without training in rescue breaths, hands-only CPR (chest compressions without breaths) is an acceptable alternative.

Why the Change to CAB?

The shift from ABC to CAB was driven by several key factors and research findings:

Compressions Are Paramount

  • Maintaining Blood Flow: Research showed that chest compressions were essential for maintaining blood flow to vital organs during cardiac arrest. Effective compressions increased the chances of survival.
  • Minimizing Interruptions: Focusing on chest compressions first aimed to minimize interruptions in blood circulation. Frequent interruptions, such as checking for breathing or performing rescue breaths first, were associated with poorer outcomes.


  • Simplicity for Bystanders: The CAB sequence simplified CPR for bystanders who may not have formal training. Starting with chest compressions reduced the hesitation and complexity often associated with CPR.
  • Clarity in Priorities: The CAB sequence emphasized the clear priority of chest compressions, making it easier for rescuers to remember and act promptly.

Better Outcomes

  • Improved Survival Rates: Studies and data indicated that the CAB approach resulted in better survival rates for cardiac arrest victims. Prioritizing compressions increased the chances of achieving return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC).
  • Quality Over Quantity: The quality of chest compressions (depth, rate, and recoil) was emphasized as being more critical than the number of breaths delivered. High-quality chest compressions were linked to improved outcomes.

How CAB Affects CPR Performance

The shift to CAB has practical implications for how CPR is performed:

  1. Immediate Chest Compressions: The most significant change is that rescuers should initiate chest compressions immediately after recognizing an unresponsive victim with no normal breathing. This applies to both trained healthcare providers and laypersons.
  2. Compressions Take Priority: Chest compressions take precedence over checking for a pulse or other signs of circulation. Rescuers should not delay compressions to check for signs of life.
  3. Airway and Breathing Assessment: Opening the airway and checking for breathing follow chest compressions. Rescuers should do this quickly but without causing significant interruptions in compressions.
  4. Rescue Breaths: For trained rescuers, rescue breaths are performed after starting chest compressions. The recommended ratio for trained rescuers is 30 compressions to 2 breaths. However, hands-only CPR (chest compressions without breaths) is also considered effective and is recommended if rescuers are unwilling or unable to give breaths.
  5. Use of AEDs: Automated external defibrillators (AEDs) should be used in conjunction with chest compressions when available. AEDs analyze the heart's rhythm and deliver electric shocks if needed.


In CPR, CAB stands for Chest Compressions, Airway, and Breathing. The shift from the traditional ABC sequence to CAB reflects a focus on prioritizing early, high-quality chest compressions as the primary intervention during cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.

Understanding the CAB sequence is crucial for both trained healthcare providers and laypersons who may encounter emergency situations. Prioritizing chest compressions and reducing delays in CPR can significantly improve the chances of survival and positive outcomes for victims in need of life-saving assistance.

 CPR + First Aid Certification

Back to blog