Common Mistakes When Performing CPR

Common mistakes when preforming CPR

TL;DR: Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S., with many incidents occurring in public spaces. Despite the presence of bystanders, only a small percentage perform CPR due to fear of making mistakes. Common errors in CPR include incorrect hand placement, inadequate compression depth and rate, not allowing full chest recoil, and improper ventilation. Situational mistakes, such as delaying CPR, not calling for help, and skipping AED use, can also occur. Proper training and practice are essential to avoid these mistakes and improve the chances of saving a life.

Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. About 436,000 Americans experience sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) annually, with a significant number of these incidents occurring in public spaces and with bystanders present.

In Utah, for instance, 45.2% of all cardiac arrests are witnessed by other people, yet only 38.9% of these witnesses perform CPR. The main reason for this low number is the fear of doing something wrong and potentially hurting the victim. But the biggest mistake in those situations is doing nothing at all.

In this article, we’ll discuss common mistakes when performing CPR so you know what not to do and increase your chances of saving a life. Understanding these errors will help you avoid them and make you feel more confident and prepared if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone needs immediate assistance.

Common Mistakes in CPR

Even though many people know what CPR is, very few know how to perform it correctly. A recent survey showed that while 54% of Americans said they could do CPR, only 1 in 6 knew the proper technique or compression rate. Performing CPR with the wrong technique leads to many mistakes during the procedure, reducing effectiveness. Knowing where most people go wrong can help you practice and avoid doing the same.

Incorrect Hand Placement

One of the most frequent mistakes is placing your hands in the wrong spot. Putting them in the wrong spots on the chest can make compressions less effective and even hurt the victim. It can also lead to insufficient blood reaching the heart and brain. The correct hand position involves the following:

    • The heel of one hand is on the chest’s center, on the breastbone’s lower part.

    • The other hand is on top of the first one.

    • Your fingers are firmly interlocked. 

    • Your elbows are straight, and the shoulders are directly above your hands.

Inadequate Compression Depth

Another common mistake is not pressing hard enough during compressions. Shallow compressions can’t generate the necessary pressure to circulate blood in place of the heart. You must use a bit of force to push because adults require compressions at least 2 inches deep but not more than 2.4 inches. To achieve the correct depth each time:

    • Use your body weight and not just your arms to press down.

    • Lean over the victim and push down firmly and quickly.

    • Between compressions, wait for the chest to recoil.

Incorrect Compression Rate

Responders must also maintain the correct compression rate during CPR. Too slow a rate doesn’t adequately maintain blood flow, while too fast a rate doesn’t allow the heart to refill between compressions. The optimal rate is 100 to 120 compressions per minute.

A helpful way to keep this pace is to compress to the beat of a familiar song with a matching tempo, like “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees or any other song on the AHA playlist. Counting out loud or using a metronome app can also help you maintain the correct pace.

Not Allowing Full Chest Recoil

A common mistake many resuscitators make is not allowing the chest to recoil fully between compressions. Full chest recoil means the heart can refill with blood to pump effectively. To ensure full recoil, remove all pressure from the chest after each compression. That doesn’t mean lifting your hands off the chest, but you should lighten your touch enough to let the chest rise.

Inadequate Ventilation

You must use the correct technique when providing breaths, whether through mouth-to-mouth or a bag-mask device. Common mistakes during this step include:

    • Blowing too hard.

    • Blowing too fast.

    • Not sealing the airway properly.

Effective breaths should raise the chest visibly. However, you should avoid excessive force to prevent air from entering the stomach, which can cause complications. For mouth-to-mouth ventilation, pinch the nose shut and seal the mouth. For bag-mask ventilation, fit the mask snugly on the face and squeeze the bag slowly over one second.

Situational Mistakes

Understanding what else you can do to help during a medical emergency is as important as knowing how to perform CPR properly. Sometimes, mistakes occur not just in technique but also in the steps taken around the CPR process, and these situational errors can affect the outcome for the victim.

Delaying CPR

Delays in starting CPR are unfortunately common and can stem from various reasons. People often hesitate, unsure if the situation truly warrants CPR, or they feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear.

Such delays can have severe consequences because every minute without CPR decreases the victim’s survival rate by up to 10%. If you find yourself in a situation where CPR is needed, don’t waste time second-guessing. Start CPR right away. Quick intervention can make a significant difference in the outcome for the victim.

Not Calling for Help

The first step in the chain of survival is calling emergency services. It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of performing CPR and forget this step. Balancing CPR and calling for help can be challenging, but it’s necessary.

If you’re alone, use a speakerphone to call 911 while you continue chest compressions. If other people are around, instruct someone to make the call immediately. Never assume someone else will do it for you – ensure it gets done. Clear communication and quick action can save valuable time and improve the chances of a positive outcome.

Skipping AED Use

AEDs are user-friendly, yet they are often overlooked or skipped during emergencies. Common reasons for that include:

    • Fear of causing harm.

    • Uncertainty about how to use the device.

    • Not knowing where an AED is located.

AEDs give clear step-by-step instructions along with voice prompts that can guide you through the process. Using an AED is straightforward, and it’s important to remember that 9 in 10 victims who receive an immediate shock from an AED survive. If an AED is available, make use of it.

Preventing Common Mistakes During CPR

Recognizing what common mistakes you can make during CPR is the first step toward preventing them. Understanding where errors can occur allows you to work on avoiding them and improves the chances of saving a life. You can keep your CPR technique effective and efficient by staying informed and prepared.

Staying Calm and Focused During CPR

Maintaining composure during medical emergencies will make you more effective when performing CPR. Use deep breathing techniques to help you stay calm. Mentally prepare yourself by visualizing the steps you need to take.

Confidence plays a significant role in successful CPR delivery. Trust your training and knowledge. Remember, a calm and focused approach allows you to perform CPR correctly and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.

Ongoing Training and Practice

The only way to learn proper CPR techniques is to enroll in CPR classes. These sessions provide detailed instruction and allow you to practice under supervision. Regular training and recertification are also necessary because guidelines and techniques can change.

Hands-on practice sessions are invaluable, as they help reinforce your skills and build muscle memory, making your response more automatic during an emergency. Regular practice will keep your skills sharp and up-to-date, enhancing your ability to perform CPR effectively when it matters most.

Practice Makes Perfect

Mistakes happen often during high-pressure situations, such as when performing CPR. It’s easy to make errors when stressed and trying to save a life, but knowing all the common mistakes when performing CPR can help you avoid them.

Starting CPR training in Salt Lake City, Utah, will give you the skills and confidence you need to perform it correctly. The hands-on experience and practice will keep you sharp and aware of what you must do and how to do it correctly. Be the perfect student who avoids disastrous mistakes and schedule a class today!