Someone Can Breathe and Still Needs CPR

I took a few CPR lessons and I confess I got the mistaken impression that the person who needs CPR will not react and will not breathe at all. But a common symptom of cardiac arrest is agonal breathing , which may look like the person is choking or snoring.

Here’s an actor demonstrating what agonal breathing can look like. If you are thinking, “Oh, he fell, but he is breathing, he’s okay,” know that the person in this situation needs an emergency call and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

This is why CPR classes are actually advised to beware of the person who is “not breathing normally.” Agonal breathing is not normal breathing; it is a reflex that occurs when the brain is not getting enough oxygen.

In a way, this is a good sign, because it means that the person’s brain stem is still active. People who experience agonal breathing during cardiac arrest are more likely to survive than people who do not, although the sad truth is that the odds are low no matter what.

What to do if you see someone falling and choking

If the person falls in front of you and they gasp, groan, or snore, it’s time to act . (You can skip the heart rate check , which will take extra time. If the person is really alive and well, they will push you away or tell you to stop.) If you have recently received CPR training, do what you have been taught. make. For most of us, the general advice is:

  • Begin CPR with only hands (rapid chest compressions at a Stayin ‘Alive pace )
  • Have someone call 911
  • If possible, have someone look for an AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) device available in many public places.

The Sarver Heart Center in Arizona notes that agonal breathing may be better than mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with air entering the chest. Thus, there is no need to breathe into the person’s mouth. In any case, hand-only CPR is now the preferred method .

I learned about agonal breathing from this Twitter thread from Anna Marie Cunningham, a physician who recently saw someone go into cardiac arrest and initially misunderstood what was happening. She shared some facts about agonal breathing and posted a link to the video above. She said, “I am a qualified healthcare professional, and if I hadn’t recognized the cardiac arrest right away, you wouldn’t have known either.”


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