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Emergency Treatment of Cardiac Arrest

Emergency Treatment of Cardiac Arrest

Do you suspect someone is experiencing cardiac arrest? The signs are:

  • Sudden loss of responsiveness – The person doesn’t respond, even if you tap them hard on the shoulders or ask loudly if they're OK. The person doesn’t move, speak, blink or otherwise react.

  • No normal breathing – The person isn’t breathing or is only gasping for air.

What to do If you think the person may be suffering cardiac arrest and you're a trained lay rescuer:

  • Ensure scene safety.

  • Check for response.

  • Shout for help. Tell someone nearby to call 911 or your emergency response number. Ask that person or another bystander to bring you an AED (automated external defibrillator), if there’s one on hand. Tell them to hurry – time is critical. If you’re alone with an adult who has signs of cardiac arrest, call 911 and get an AED (if one is available).

  • Check for no breathing or only gasping. If the person isn’t breathing or is only gasping, begin CPR with compressions.

  • Begin high quality CPR. Push down at least two inches in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 to 120 pushes a minute. Allow the chest to come back up to its normal position after each push.

  • Use an AED. As soon as it arrives, turn it on and follow the prompts.

  • Continue CPR. Administer it until the person starts to breathe or move, or until someone with more advanced training, such as an EMS team member, takes over.

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisors

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