What If Ribs Break During CPR? Understanding Complications
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Broken ribs while performing CPR

What if the ribs break while performing CPR?

In response to patients suffering sudden cardiac arrests, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed as an emergency procedure to stabilize the patient’s breathing and blood flow and reassure the proper functioning of the brain.

In performing a cycle of CPR with chest compressions and rescue breaths, hearing the sound of breaking ribs is common. With this in mind, many people still remain anxious about cracking or breaking the patient’s ribs when performing CPR.

While it is possible for anyone, people with osteoporosis and the elderly, are more prone to breaking their ribs while CPR is being performed on them.

What should I do if I hear the patient’s ribs breaking?

  • The rescuer should continue performing CPR.
  • Check and correct the position of your hands based on the technique for an adult, child or infant.
  • Confirm the depth of your compressions (2-2.4 inches for adults).
  • Remember, the patient may feel pain for some time when they wake up, but this will outweigh the main fact, that they are alive.

How can I prepare myself to perform CPR despite these challenges?

To overcome the fear of breaking ribs, becoming CPR certified is highly recommended. American CPR Care Association provides high-quality courses including videos and demonstrations to enhance the learning experience, all at an affordable cost. Through this course, the proper execution of CPR on patients can be learned and can help prevent complications and increase confidence when performing CPR.


Remember, while anyone may encounter difficulties when performing CPR and may need some alterations or modifications in the process, you should not stop performing CPR in the fear of breaking patient’s ribs. Continue the process and save as many lives as you can.


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