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Pulse But No Breathing: How CPR Helps?

Pulse But No Breathing: How CPR Helps?

Encountering an emergency where there is pulse but no breathing, can be an extremely scary situation. These cases particularly arise in drowning emergencies or cardiac arrest. When the patient has a pulse but yet is not breathing, chances are they have suffered respiratory arrest. For a layperson, the presence of pulse and absence of breathing can help differentiate between respiratory and cardiac arrest.

In such moments, knowing how to administer CPR can make all the difference. This fundamental lifesaving technique sustains blood flow and enables oxygenation to the vital organs of the body.  This blog will help you understand and identify the intricacies of CPR. We will also highlight its role in saving lives of people when faced with the absence of breathing despite a detectable pulse.

Steps to follow if there is Pulse and No Breathing

Facing alarming situations like this can often be chaotic and challenging without the essential skills and competence to perform them. 

Knowing the right steps can make a significant difference in such moments. Let’s go through the necessary steps one by one-

  • Assess the Situation: Quickly evaluate the person’s responsiveness and breathing status.
  • Check for Pulse: Locate the carotid artery on the neck and check for a pulse for no more than 10 seconds.
  • Start CPR: If there’s a pulse but no breathing, initiate CPR immediately.
  • Position the Person: Lay the person on their back on a firm surface.
  • Clear Airway: Tilt the head back slightly, lift the chin, and clear any obstructions from the mouth or throat.
  • Begin Chest Compressions: Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person’s chest, interlock the other hand on top, and begin chest compressions at a rate of 100-120 compressions per minute.
  • Administer Rescue Breaths: After 30 compressions, give two rescue breaths by tilting the head back, pinching the nose shut, and covering the person’s mouth with yours to deliver breaths.
  • Continue CPR: Alternate between compressions and rescue breaths in a ratio of 30:2 until emergency medical help arrives or the person starts breathing on their own.
  • Use an AED (if available): If an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) is accessible, follow its instructions for use in conjunction with CPR.

Read More: How do you deal with death after giving CPR?

What is the medical indication when a person is not breathing but has a detectable pulse?

Situations like this ideally demand prompt intervention. Understanding the medical indication is important when effective assistance is required. Here are the key medical indications when faced with a person exhibiting a pulse but no breathing:

  • Cardiac Arrest: Despite the presence of a pulse, the lack of breathing could signal cardiac arrest, where the heart’s normal rhythm is disrupted, leading to ineffective pumping of blood.
  • Respiratory Arrest: The absence of breathing may indicate respiratory arrest, where the person’s respiratory system fails to adequately exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide, despite a functioning heart.
  • Hypoxic State: Without breathing, the body becomes deprived of oxygen, potentially leading to hypoxia, a condition where tissues and organs receive insufficient oxygen supply, posing severe health risks.
  • Brain Injury or Dysfunction: Prolonged absence of breathing can result in brain injury or dysfunction due to the brain’s sensitivity to oxygen deprivation, emphasizing the urgent need for intervention.
  • Impending Respiratory Failure: The absence of spontaneous breathing despite a detectable pulse may indicate impending respiratory failure, necessitating immediate medical attention to prevent further deterioration.

Read More: Know the difference between rescue breathing and CPR.

Do you give CPR if there is a pulse but no breathing?

If you have come across a situation and confused if you should administer CPR or not, this will surely help you-

  • Yes, Perform CPR: If a person is not breathing but has a detectable pulse, CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) should be initiated immediately.
  • Importance of Circulation and Oxygenation: While a pulse indicates that the heart is still beating, the absence of breathing means that oxygen is not being circulated throughout the body. CPR helps maintain blood circulation and oxygenation of vital organs.
  • Addressing the Underlying Cause: CPR helps buy time until professional medical help arrives. It addresses the underlying cause of the breathing cessation, whether it’s cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or another medical emergency.
  • Follow Standard CPR Protocol: Begin with chest compressions to circulate blood, followed by rescue breaths to provide oxygen. Continue CPR until the person starts breathing spontaneously, or until medical help arrives.

Read More: Tips for administering effective CPR.


In situations where there is pulse but no breathing, the importance of CPR cannot be overstated. The administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation enables the vital and prompt intervention required in such emergencies. 

Understanding the significance of CPR and being prepared to act decisively in emergencies can truly make a difference in saving lives. With knowledge, readiness, and swift action, lives can be preserved and positive outcomes can be ensured in challenging circumstances.