CPR Compression Depth: A How-To Guide for Chest Compressions

ProTrainings: CPR Compression Depth: How-To Guide for Chest Compressions

Chest compressions are the most crucial part of CPR. They maintain blood flow until the heart can be restarted, which can slow or prevent the brain damage often caused by cardiac arrest.

In fact, CPR can be performed on adults without using rescue breaths at all. This is called hands-only CPR. While hands-only CPR may not be effective for extended periods, it can give the patients a few extra precious minutes of oxygen to the brain before help arrives. 

Given how essential chest compressions are, rescuers need to know the proper execution. CPR compression depth, rate, and technique must be performed correctly to maximize the victim’s chance of survival. 

Compression depth may be the most challenging part to master for beginners because they are afraid of hurting the victim. However, if your compressions aren’t deep enough, you may not be applying enough force to assist circulation.

CPR compression depth depends on the size and age of the person, so to help you get an idea of how to perform chest compressions, let’s go over the proper compression technique for each age group.

What’s the Right CPR Compression Depth for Adults? 

Adults require very forceful compressions to keep their blood circulating. Remember that if you’re performing the compressions correctly, you may break the victim’s ribs. That’s a risk you’re going to have to take. Here are the steps for performing chest compressions on an adult: 

  • Place the heel of one hand on top of the sternum just below the nipples. Place your other hand on top of the hand on the chest. 
  • Make sure your shoulders are directly above your hands, and your elbows are locked. 
  • Compress the chest to about 2.4 inches. Allow the chest to fully decompress after each compression. 
  • Perform compressions at a 100 to 120 per minute rate. Many people use a song to help keep them on rhythm.
  • If you are performing conventional CPR, stop after every 30 compressions to give two rescue breaths. If you are doing hands-only CPR, don’t stop compressing since you need to keep circulation going.

For older children and teenagers, the technique is similar, with the recommended depth of the compression being slightly shallower — around 2 inches, depending on the size of the child.

What’s the Right CPR Compression Depth for Children and Infants? 

For infants and small children, the compression technique is slightly different. Children have smaller chests, so it takes less force to keep blood pumping to their brain and organs. They are also more susceptible to injury, so gentleness is called for.

For small children and toddlers, perform compressions with the heel of one hand. Compression depth should be about 2 inches.

ProTrainings: CPR Compression Depth: How-To Guide for Chest Compressions

Infants need even less force. You can perform the compressions by using both thumbs or two fingers in the sternum exactly between the nipples. Compress to a depth of 1.5 inches. 

It’s important to remember that hands-only CPR is not as effective for children and babies. Adult lungs are large enough to hold enough air to keep them healthy for the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, so you just need compressions to help that air reach their brain and other organs.

Children have smaller lungs that do not store much air, so they need rescue breaths in order to replenish their oxygen supply. This is why it is so important that parents and healthcare professionals learn how to perform traditional CPR on children and infants.

What is the Recommended Compression Rate for High Quality CPR?

The rate at which you do compressions is almost as important as compression depth. While recommended compression depth varies by age, you should perform compressions at 100-120 beats per minute regardless of age.

A lot of people find it helpful to have a song to keep them on rhythm while practicing compressions. Any song within that tempo range works great — just remember that you’ll probably speed up while performing CPR in real life, so pick a song that is slightly slower than your target rate. You can find a list of great CPR songs here.

Does Your Team Know How to Perform Chest Compressions?

Cardiac arrest can happen anytime and anywhere. It can also happen to any person, regardless of age. That’s why it’s so important that healthcare workers of all kinds know how to perform CPR chest compression and other life-saving techniques properly.
That’s where ProTrainings comes in! We have tons of great online materials that your team can use to sharpen their CPR skills so that when disaster strikes, they know what to do. Check out our group CPR training today to get your team members fully trained and CPR certified.