Common Mistakes When Performing CPR that Everyone Should Know

Common mistakes when preforming CPR

Studies show that CPR doubles and even triples the victim’s chances of survival. If you give CPR to patients within a few minutes of suffering from cardiac arrest, they have a much higher chance of surviving than without the compressions. The longer the victim is left without the needed help, the higher the risk of permanent damage and even death. 

Proper CPR requires training, technique, hand positioning, and a steady rate, and any error can lead to more harm than good. But, people can sometimes make unintentional mistakes when performing CPR, which is why it’s essential to keep your knowledge up to date.

Here are some of the common mistakes when performing CPR and a few pointers on how you can avoid them:

List of Common Mistakes When Performing CPR

Today’s guide will discuss seven different CPR mistakes that can happen even to trained professionals. While extremely detailed and strict, the CPR guidelines can often become an oversight. To help you have a clear idea of what you need to do when performing CPR and avoid misapplication, here is a list of the most common CPR mistakes and ways to avoid them:

Failure to Call for Help

Cardiac arrest and a complete breathing halt can happen to a person without much prior notice. It could happen at home, in a store, or walking down the street. Sometimes, they might be surrounded by a crowd that tries to help them, but at other times, there might be just one person available to help.

If you come across a situation where you are the sole person available to perform CPR, you should call an ambulance before starting the compressions. Even though CPR can prove helpful in keeping someone alive, you will eventually get tired and require the help of trained professionals with proper medical equipment.

Once you start giving CPR, making significant breaks is not advisable, no matter your reasoning. So, to avoid making a crucial mistake, ensure you call 911 as soon as you see someone going into cardiac arrest or you check and see that they have stopped breathing.

Improper Head Position for the Patient

One common misconception about CPR is connected to the patient’s head positioning. There are many situations in which the person giving CPR either fails to tilt the head or tilts it too far back, and both cases can be more problematic than helpful for the person being resuscitated.

When giving CPR, you need to tilt the patient’s head back even before you start with compressions or rescue breaths. The tilt angle should be about 30 degrees from the head’s normal position, which you can achieve if you slightly raise the chin from its normal position.

Doing this will make it easier for the blood to circulate to the brain and back. Simultaneously, you will open the airway and ensure the person does not choke on their tongue or vomit.

Inadequate Hand Placement and Body Position

As mentioned in the previous section, whenever you need to start compressions, you must position the patient on a flat surface, on their back, with the head tilted at a 30-degree angle. The next thing would be to set your hands correctly to give proper compressions without hurting yourself or the patient.

A common misunderstanding among people who have yet to learn proper CPR is how to position themselves when performing CPR. You would see them leaning over the patient or sitting on top of them, often bending their arms and keeping their hands in a strange position.

Regarding proper body position, you must be on the patient’s side and sit as close to them as possible without leaning over them. As for the hands, you should position them in the middle of the patient’s chest, with one hand over the other and the fingers of the top hand interlaced with the lower hand.

Your hands should always be on top of one another with interlaced fingers, whereas the arms should be straight with the elbows locked.

Inadequate Rate of Compressions

If you ever wonder how fast or slow your CPR compressions should be, just start singing Bee Gees’ song “Stayin’ Alive.” The song’s beat makes it easy to follow the proper CPR rate. Anything faster or slower than that is an inadequate compression rate.

But putting the songs aside and focusing on the science behind CPR, medical professionals say that the proper way to give CPR is to do 100 to 120 compressions in a minute. That means you should perform two compressions per second, keeping up that pace for as long as needed.

People often make errors regarding the compression rate because they either get carried away or become too tired to follow a steady pace. If the ambulance takes a long time to reach you, consider trading places with someone after you get tired. If there is no one else to take over for you, you will have to keep doing the compressions yourself until the first responders arrive.

Inadequate Depth of Compressions

While the compression rate is essential, so is the depth of the compressions. Inadequate depth means you are not pushing the chest hard enough to reach the heart and help it pump blood. In turn, that means that blood is not reaching each body part, leading to problems for the person receiving the compressions.

According to medical professionals, the proper depth of compressions is about 2 inches or 5 cm. That means you need to do a significant push with your hands. People are often afraid to do this because a stronger push could lead to a few broken bones.

A study published in the European Resuscitation Journal states that every one in three recipients of CPR suffers a rib fracture, whereas every one in five recipients could end up with a sternum fracture. While these are significant injuries, there are no repercussions to the person administering CPR as they intended to help the patient in the first place. 

If anything, this should encourage CPR givers to ensure the proper depth of their compressions and focus only on keeping the patient alive and not on the possible consequences.

Inadequate Recoil after Compressions

While we have established that each compression needs to be at least 2 inches deep, it is necessary to allow the chest to come all the way back before we push down on it again. That movement of the chest is called recoil, and it is imperative.

Many people make an inadequate release of the chest without even realizing it. It is easy to get wrapped up in the rate and depth of compressions, so much so that you forget about the recoil. But not allowing the chest to come back up means that you are limiting the blood flow to the body. 

To ensure there is no improper recoil, you need to focus on gently releasing the pressure after each compression, feeling the chest come back up, and adopting a neutral position. Only after it reaches this neutral position can you start with the subsequent compression.

Inaccurate Compression-to-breath Ratio

People giving CPR to someone can choose between focusing solely on compressions or pairing them with rescue breaths. People often misunderstand the ratio between the two and do as many compressions and breaths as they want. However, that is not advisable as there is a specific rate they need to follow.

A recommended rate for adults is thirty compressions followed by two rescue breaths. The rate changes when performing CPR on children or infants. This 30 to 2 ratio might be acceptable for children in some cases, but infants usually require more frequent rescue breaths.

If you are unsure of what to do, the 911 dispatchers will guide you through until the first responders arrive at the scene. However, it is wise to undergo proper CPR training to be able to help people of all ages in any given situation as soon as possible.


Many things can go wrong when performing CPR, including improver compression rate, depth, recoil, and body and hand placement. These problems can lead to inadequate ventilation, poor blood flow throughout the body, and other health problems for the person receiving CPR.

If there is one thing anyone can take from this article, it is that CPR is not something to joke around with – you need to be tactical and meticulous about it.

Knowing the right technique and how to avoid the common mistake when performing CPR is always smart, whether you are an adult, child, or teenager. Studies have shown that learning CPR at a young age can also help develop a sense of responsibility and a desire to help people in need. So, never put off learning this valuable skill that can certainly come in handy in life-or-death situations.