Understanding CPR: Risks and Necessities of Life-Saving Actions

Did you know that performing Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation on a cardiac arrest victim can double or even triple their chance of survival? Breaking ribs is also possible during CPR. When a person goes into cardiac arrest, the heart stops beating. CPR keeps the blood and oxygen pumping to the body’s major organs until an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) or emergency medical staff can restore the normal breathing and heart rhythm. Without blood and oxygen flowing to the organs, severe brain damage can occur within four minutes, and the victim will die within 10 minutes.

CPR is one of the most essential life saving techniques we have, but many find themselves a bit hesitant to carry it out. Some do not have the confidence, but then some wonder whether or not they will break the patient’s ribs by doing so. Unfortunately, adequately administered CPR may lead to broken ribs between the amount of pressure required and the depth necessary for a successful compression. A rescuer needs to understand how to safely, quickly, and effectively administer CPR. It’s okay if a rib breaks because the ultimate goal is to ensure the blood is pumped throughout the body.

How to Perform the CPR?

Performing CPR is not difficult when you know the proper steps to take:

Get CPR Certified in Minutes for as low as $19.95

Join thousands of professionals that have been certified online with us
100% Online Certification
Fast & Convenient
Instant Certification Card
Nationally Accepted
Get Started
5 star
from 259,205 reviews


Tailored for the community and workplace
Offer Expires:
Comprehensive CPR Training Across All Ages
Choking response training
Recovery position technique course

Common Side Effects of CPR

Every minute counts when it comes to saving a cardiac arrest victim, and quickly stepping in to perform CPR will make the difference between life and death. But sometimes CPR, if not administered properly, can cause problems to victims, such as skeletal chest injury.

Breaking Ribs During CPR

It is common for ribs to break when CPR is being performed. It doesn’t happen in all situations, but it is a normal occurrence that you should be prepared for. The vulnerability of the cardiac arrest victim should be considered before performing a CPR. For example, elderly patients, specifically those with osteoporosis, are more likely to suffer from a rib fracture than younger patients because their bones are more fragile. So if you find yourself hesitant to perform CPR because you are worried that you might break a rib, be prepared for other options. If you do happen to break a rib, you may quite possibly at the same time save a life.

What to do if you hear a bone crack while performing CPR?

If you are performing CPR and hear or feel a rib break, you should keep going. Of course, the victim’s chest will hurt when they wake up, but the one thing that matters is that they’re alive. So far, there are not many cases where the victim has complained over CPR being performed on them. They tend to understand what was at stake at the time. Rib fractures are considered a severe injury, but they can be treated later, whereas cardiac arrest is a life threatening emergency that requires immediate attention.

CPR is a lifesaving procedure that will continue to be helpful in the future even as the guidelines are altered and new methods are introduced. A little break on the ribs should not affect your desire to save lives.

Does CPR Causes Vomiting?

Vomiting is one of the most common side effects of CPR, and it can be dangerous or life-threatening because the victim is unconscious, and the fluid can block their airway. If you see a victim vomit during CPR or while unconscious, turn their head to one side to let the fluid drain from the mouth.

Does CPR lead to Brain damage?

The brain receives about 5% less oxygen during CPR than usual, leading to brain injury. Brain damage will also occur if the victim doesn’t receive CPR within the first few minutes of their collapse, so immediate action is critical.

Can CPR cause Abdominal Distension?

The air is forced into the lungs during CPR, and excess air can cause abdominal bloating. This can cause vomiting and compression of the lungs, making it more difficult for the victim to take in air.

Can CPR cause Aspiration Pneumonia?

Vomit, or even broken teeth, can make their way into the lungs during CPR, causing pneumonia. Pneumonia can be severe and can cause complications during the victim’s recovery.

With these side effects in mind, it’s crucial that rescuers still perform CPR, despite the risks. Turn the victim’s head to the side to prevent them from choking on vomit and carry on with chest compressions. Remember that the sooner you act, the greater the victim’s chance of survival will be.

Frequently Asked Questions About Rib Fractures caused by CPR

How often do ribs break during CPR?

It is estimated that 30% of the cardiac arrest victims that have received CPR will end up with a broken rib or sternum.

How long does it take the rib to heal after CPR?

Each person’s healing times vary, but normally, broken bones and broken sternum take around 4-6 weeks to heal fully.

Can’t I be sued for breaking ribs during CPR?

No. All 50 states have implemented versions of a Good Samaritan Law, protecting emergency responders who unintentionally do harm while assisting in good faith.

What’s the most common rib fracture during CPR?

60% of the cases with rib fractures were found on the 2nd rib. Accordingly, sternal fractures occur most frequently between the 3rd and 4th rib level or between the 4th and 5th rib level.

What's the difference between CPR and BLS?

BLS certification vs CPR are both essential for healthcare professionals who work in critical care settings. While CPR certification is a more specific certification that focuses on teaching individuals the proper chest compression techniques, rescue breathing, and the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), BLS certification covers a wider range of emergency care skills. In addition to CPR, BLS includes training in airway management, bag-mask ventilation, and the use of advanced airway devices.


Suffering from a CPR related injury such as skeletal injury is a painful experience, but it heals compared to losing a life. A cardiac arrest victim surely will choose a fractured rib over the loss of life any day of the week. And with the right CPR training, anyone can learn how to perform Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation properly to ensure the highest chance of saving a victim’s life.

CPR training is a difference-maker for individuals of all ages and backgrounds. It teaches you the proper techniques to act in an emergency and save a life. The most crucial part of CPR is acting quickly and calling 911. Equip yourself with critical life-saving skills by completing your CPR certification today.

Enroll Now for Online CPR/AED Training & Certification Classes at just $19.95.