How to Perform High Quality Chest Compressions (CPR)

Effective chest compressions are the most important component of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). High-quality CPR involves rescuers being aware of how to deliver effective chest compressions to a victim in order to improve the chances of a successful defibrillation.

Hands-only CPR is now being taught to laypeople as it is recognized that rescue breaths are not as important in the initial few minutes after a cardiac arrest. In addition, performing rescue breaths may put off bystanders from intervening and beginning vital CPR. 

So how can you deliver high-quality chest compressions to a victim of sudden cardiac arrest (SCA)?

Performing High-Quality Chest Compressions

To perform high-quality chest compressions, follow these steps:

  1. Kneel by the side of the victim
  2. Place the heel of one hand in the center of the victim’s chest
  3. Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first hand
  4. Interlock the fingers of your hands and ensure that pressure is not applied to the victim’s ribs. Do not apply any pressure over the upper abdomen or the bottom end of the sternum
  5. Position yourself vertically above the victim’s chest and, with your arms straight, press down on the sternum approximately 5 – 6 cm
  6. After each compression, release all the pressure on the chest without losing contact between your hands and the sternum
  7. Repeat at a rate of 100 – 120 chest compressions per minute
  8. Each compression and release should take an equal amount of time


You may feel a victim’s ribs break when performing high-quality CPR. This is often unavoidable and you should not stop performing chest compressions.

Ensure your hands are in the correct position and continue delivering CPR until EMS take over. Studies show that the majority of cardiac arrest victims sustain at least one rib fracture. 

Common CPR Mistakes

Effective CPR is a skill that requires practice. Common mistakes that occur when delivering chest compressions include:

  • Too shallow chest compressions
  • Slow chest compressions
  • Not fully releasing the victim’s chest
  • ‘Bouncing’ on the chest – this occurs when the rescuer’s hands don’t remain in contact with the victim’s chest

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