How Deep Should You Go?

When a person goes into cardiac arrest, their heart stops pumping blood—and the brain begins to starve of oxygen. CPR is a simple, very effective procedure that allows a provider to function as the patient’s heart—pumping blood through the body by hand until emergency rescue arrives. Anyone can do CPR, and it’s very easy to learn.

So, how do you act as the patient’s heart? The answer is chest compressions. In CPR, the rescuer places the heel of one hand on the patient’s chest, between the nipples. The second hand goes over the first, and then the rescuer pushes down, hard and fast, in the center of the chest.

Ideal depth for CPR chest compressions

We often get asked the question—what’s the ideal depth for CPR chest compressions? The answer is no deeper than 5.5 centimeters, or about two inches, in adults. Any deeper, and you could damage internal organs. Any shallower, however, and you may not be pumping blood effectively through the body.

Two inches may not sound like a lot. However, it takes a lot of force to compress a human chest by two inches—about sixty pounds of force. It’s easy to over-deliver if you have a lot of strength, and it’s easy to be too delicate about it as well—especially if you don’t have experience pushing on a human body with that kind of force, and don’t know what it feels like.

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