Emergency Response: Can You Perform CPR on a Gunshot Victim?

A gunshot wound is always a serious condition, with significant damage and potentially the threat of death generally accompanying such trauma. Speed is of the essence when trying to help the recipient of a gunshot wound, but to ensure you’re efficient with it, you have to know exactly what you’re doing.

Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is the obvious choice, as most Holywood flicks depict. While no one doubts the potential of CPR as a critical aspect of emergency response that can help a gunshot victim survive, applying CPR to a gunshot victim is not as easy as shown in movies. So, can you perform CPR on a gunshot victim?

The short answer is yes, as long as you stay aware of certain crucial aspects and take precautions. The force of the bullet and stopping the bleeding are two things always to consider, but we will tell you more about why they are important below. So, keep reading to learn more!

Understanding CPR and its Purpose

CPR is a method of delivering help to a person in cardiac or respiratory distress by ensuring the heart and lungs keep working until medical professionals arrive. One of the two main goals of CPR is to get the heart pumping again to restore blood flow and deliver oxygen to the lungs. The methodology is simple enough so anyone can help someone in need, even if not trained in CPR.

What you are trying to achieve with chest compressions and rescue breaths is to ensure a victim stays alive until emergency services can take over. It helps maintain circulation and oxygenation of vital organs, preventing brain damage and increasing the chances of survival.

Performing CPR on someone includes much more than just pressing on their chest or giving mouth-to-mouth. There is a specific technique that you should know when performing both, which is where CPR Certification comes into play. Getting certified is the best way to ensure a detailed understanding of CPR and valuable practical experience.

Is it Possible to Perform CPR on a Gunshot Victim?

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is a technique you would perform on someone who is experiencing cardiac arrest. However, when it comes to gunshot victims, performing CPR alone may not be sufficient to save their lives. Gunshot injuries often require immediate medical intervention, including controlling bleeding, addressing collapsed lungs, and stabilizing the patient before transporting them to a healthcare facility.

While CPR can help maintain blood circulation in the absence of a pulse, it is essential to address the underlying causes of cardiac arrest as well. In the case of a gunshot wound, this involves controlling bleeding and ensuring adequate oxygenation to the body.

Untrained individuals may lack the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively perform these additional life-saving interventions. Therefore, it is crucial to seek immediate medical assistance when confronted with a gunshot victim, but that does not mean avoiding performing CPR until help arrives.

Steps to Perform CPR on a Gunshot Victim

Performing CPR on a gunshot victim follows the same principles as performing CPR in any other situation but includes a few extra considerations. In case you ever have to apply CPR to a gunshot victim, you need to remember that speed is of the essence, but precision also counts, so following every step of the procedure is essential for success:

    1. Prioritize Safety: If a scene is not secure, like the perpetrator is still on scene or there is a risk of electrocution, you have to make sure you take care of any threats before trying to administer CPR. Your safety is always a priority!

    1. Dial 911: Ideally, you would ask somebody nearby to call emergency medical services as you start administering CPR. When nobody is available, call the paramedics first and then proceed through the steps of CPR.

    1. Check ABCs: CPR courses teach you to check the victim’s airway, breathing, and circulation as an initial critical assessment. This will tell you whether the victim is breathing and has a pulse. If there is an absence in either or both of these parameters, begin administering CPR immediately.

    1. Body positioning: The victim needs to be in a position where the administration of CPR can help rather than harm them. You should place them on a flat, firm surface with enough space to kneel beside them. Your elbows must be completely locked out throughout the procedure, and palms one over the other at the center of the victim’s chest.

    1. Perform chest compressions: Using your arm positioning, push on the chest at a depth of about 2 inches per compression. Recommendations state around 100-120 compressions per minute, which is easier to remember when considering that the compressions need to follow the rhythm of Bee Gees’ megahit Stayin’ Alive.

    1. Head positioning: After delivering 30 chest compressions, it is time to administer two rescue breaths. Before giving mouth-to-mouth, tilt the victim’s head back by lifting their chin slightly. This ensures the airway is open to receive the rescue breaths.

    1. Deliver rescue breaths: Once the airways open, place your mouth over the victim’s mouth, and while holding their nose pinched, blow hard into their mouth. Check whether the victim’s chest raises as you blow. The rescue breaths need to be slow and steady, with two at the end of every set of 30 chest compressions.

    1. Continue CPR: After delivering two rescue breaths, perform chest compressions. CPR can take up to 45 minutes, sometimes even more, until a victim responds, so keep administering chest compressions and rescue breaths until professional medical help arrives.

Remember, CPR is just one thing you can do to help a gunshot victim. Depending on their injury, you might have to try and stop the bleeding, while you might also have to keep their airway open at all times. If you do not have any first-aid training, ask the 911 dispatcher to instruct you further.

Potential Risks of Performing CPR on a Gunshot Victim

While CPR has the potential to save somebody’s life, the methods are not without flaws, nor are they all-powerful. Be aware that delivering CPR to a gunshot victim comes with certain risks and might have limited success.

One obvious risk is the possibility of causing further injury, but that is an inherent risk whenever you’re administering CPR, regardless of the underlying condition. For example, CPR may worsen any existing damage to the spine and rib cage as a result of the force of the compressions.

There is also the issue of bleeding, which is undoubtedly going to be present in cases of gunshot wounds. You have to make sure you address the bleeding as soon as possible by applying pressure on the wound since doing CPR can make it considerably worse.

Another risk is the potential for infection. You never know whether a victim might have a bacterial infection or other contagious diseases, which they may transfer to you during CPR. Using personal protective equipment like gloves, masks, and eye protection is wise, but if you have no access to such gear, you must prioritize helping the victim.

Lastly, there is a risk of dislodging bullet fragments during CPR, which can lead to bullet migration through the body. That can also worsen the trauma and cause significant further damage to the victim.

While these risks exist, CPR is essential for any gunshot victim or person who has had a traumatic injury. It has benefits that far outweigh the risks, so you are absolutely right to try and help the victim, as your help can significantly raise their chances of survival.

Training and Certification in CPR for Gunshot Victims

Given the complexities involved in providing medical assistance to gunshot victims, it is essential to receive proper training and certification in CPR. Introductory CPR courses often cover the fundamentals of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but specialized training is required to handle gunshot injuries effectively.

Seek out courses that provide training in trauma response and hemorrhage control, as these skills are critical in the case of gunshot wounds. Getting CPR certified will prepare you to respond to all kinds of emergencies with confidence, including giving essential first aid to gunshot victims.

These courses typically cover bleeding control, chest compressions, airway management, and other essential interventions. By obtaining certification, you can ensure that you are prepared to respond appropriately and effectively when faced with a gunshot victim.


In situations involving gunshot injuries, the ability to perform CPR may not be sufficient to save lives. Gunshot victims often require immediate medical attention beyond the scope of traditional CPR. However, many initially wonder – can you perform CPR on a gunshot victim?

Despite some apparent risks involved with CPR on a gunshot wound, performing it remains something you have to do. The benefits far outweigh the risks, but by understanding the challenges posed by gunshot injuries and equipping yourself with the necessary skills and knowledge, you can play a vital role in keeping someone alive in an emergency.

If you have not already done so, consider enrolling in a specialized CPR course in Knoxville that covers trauma response and hemorrhage control. You can make a significant difference when it matters most by taking the initiative to learn these life-saving techniques.