What Does CAB Stand for In CPR?

When you hear about CPR, you might think it’s all about pressing hard and fast in the center of someone’s chest and giving rescue breaths. But there’s more to it, especially with the changes in guidelines that replaced the well-known ABC sequence of doing CPR.

A Louisville woman recently discovered the importance of knowing how to perform CPR in the correct sequence when she had to use her CPR training to save a coworker’s life. She was able to react in time and use the proper resuscitation technique thanks to a CPR training class the victim herself had organized for the workplace.

If you haven’t taken a CPR class recently, you might be surprised to learn there’s been a significant shift in the guidelines from the ABC technique to the CAB method. But what does CAB stand for in CPR? This acronym for Compressions, Airway, and Breathing emphasizes chest compressions as the first thing anyone should do when CPR is necessary. Let’s dive in and learn more about CAB.

How CPR Evolved

Today’s CPR method has evolved significantly since it was first introduced in the 16th century. Initially, CPR techniques were quite rudimentary and not widely understood or implemented. However, as medical science progressed, the techniques evolved significantly.

The modern ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation) sequence prioritized clearing the airway and supporting breathing before addressing circulation. This approach made sense when you think about the need to ensure oxygen could reach the lungs and then circulate to the rest of the body.

However, research and real-world application led to a pivotal shift in thinking. Medical professionals found that starting with chest compressions (Circulation) could be more effective in saving lives. By focusing first on circulation, rescuers could better support oxygen delivery throughout the body, which is vital in the crucial moments following cardiac arrest. This evolution in CPR techniques reflects our commitment to improving care and outcomes for those in need.

The Components of CAB in CPR

Knowing the right sequence of performing CPR is vital because when someone’s heart stops, you can’t afford to waste time. For every minute the victim doesn’t receive CPR, their chances of surviving go down by 7%-10%. Let’s go through every letter so you know what to do if you’re ever in a position where you need to save a life.


When someone is experiencing cardiac arrest, you need to start doing chest compressions immediately. Getting blood to the brain and other vital organs can prevent many neurological complications down the line. To do it right, you must:

    • Position the heel of your hand on the lower half of the victim’s chest

    • Place your other hand on top of the first one

    • Interlock your fingers, straighten your arms, and push down hard and fast

Compressions must be 2 inches deep for adults, at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Some studies even suggest that chest-only CPR, without rescue breaths, can be remarkably effective, especially for those who aren’t trained professionals.


Once you’ve got the rhythm going with compressions, you need to check the airway. You need to ensure nothing stops the air from moving in and out of the victim’s airways. You can do this by first looking in the mouth for any apparent blockages, like food or small objects, and carefully removing them if you see any.

If there are no signs of life and breathing hasn’t resumed after 30 compressions, you’ll need to open the airway further. Tip the victim’s head back at a slight angle and lift the chin to make it easier for air to reach the lungs.


After you’ve started compressions and ensured the airway is clear, it’s time to help the victim breathe by following the steps below.

    • Pinch the victim’s nose shut

    • Breathe in normally

    • Ensure your mouth covers theirs to create a complete seal

    • Give two rescue breaths

    • Watch for the chest to rise and fall

These breaths are essential because the body needs oxygen to survive even if the blood is circulating. By giving breaths, you’re essentially buying time, ensuring the brain and other organs stay oxygenated until professional help arrives or the heart starts beating again on its own.

The Role of Quick Action and Training in CPR

When it comes to emergencies, especially those requiring CPR, every second counts. You’ve probably heard this a dozen times, but it’s true – the quicker you act, the higher the chances of saving a life. Immediate CPR can significantly increase survival rates, making it indispensable during medical emergencies.

Getting CPR training is something you might not have considered a priority, but it should be. Knowing you can be someone’s hero in their most critical moment is empowering. A few years ago, the city of Louisville, KY, took that sentiment to heart and organized free CPR training for its residents. They put together an event where they trained almost 35,000 people in CPR. That’s a whole city’s worth of individuals who now know to use CAB when emergencies strike.

When and How to Perform CPR Using CAB

When it comes to a cardiac arrest situation, you must know when and how to perform CPR using the CAB (Compression-Airway-Breathing) sequence. Before doing any of that, you need to recognize the signs of cardiac arrest:

    • Unresponsiveness

    • Absence of breathing

    • Gasping for air

    • Weak or no pulse

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing CAB in CPR

The CAB method is a straightforward approach recommended by the American Heart Association. Start with compressions. Place your hands on the person’s chest, with the heel applying most of the pressure. You must keep your elbows straight and use your body weight to push down firmly and quickly, aiming for a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute. Make sure the compressions are at least two inches deep in adults.

Before you attempt to provide any rescue breaths, tilt the person’s head back and lift their chin to clear the airway. Pinch the nose shut, take a normal breath, and cover the person’s mouth with yours, creating a complete seal. Blow into their mouth for about one second, ensuring their chest rises with each breath. Give two breaths, then go back to compressions.

You must stay calm and collected when doing this. Panic can cloud your judgment and make your efforts less effective. Stay focused, keep counting your compressions out loud, and don’t hesitate to ask a bystander to call 911 if you haven’t already.

CAB Stands for Saving Lives: Final Thoughts

So, what does CAB stand for in CPR? CAB is a short way to refer to Compressions, Airway, and Breathing, the essential steps in performing CPR. The goal of this sequence is to keep the blood flowing to the heart and brain, clear the airways, and ensure proper breathing until professional help arrives.

Still, it’s one thing to know the theory behind CAB, but being able to apply it confidently in a real-life scenario is another. This is why we recommend everyone start taking CPR classes in Louisville and learn how and when to use the CAB method. Also, CPR guidelines get updated occasionally, so it’s best to keep your skills sharp and current.