Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: CPR after bypass surgery or stenting



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Hands-only CRP can
save lives.

Q. Is CPR safe for a person who has had coronary bypass surgery or who has a stent in place?

A. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can save a life if an individual's heart suddenly stops beating and he or she collapses. In the first few weeks after bypass surgery, chest compressions could damage the breastbone (sternum) while the incision is healing. However, if the other option is death, you have to do what you have to do. Once the incision has healed completely, the risks from CPR to a person with prior bypass surgery are not particularly different from anyone else. CPR done on someone with an artery-opening stent is not likely to cause problems with the device.

When someone suddenly collapses without a pulse, giving "hands-only" CPR with firm, rapid pushes on the chest is often more effective in saving lives than the traditional kind of CPR that uses mouth-to-mouth breathing. That's because stopping chest compressions to do rescue breathing temporarily stops the circulation of blood, which can damage the brain. Before you start, call 911. Then follow these steps:

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