Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Facts

Defibrillator in hands od doctor during emergency

How do you decide whether CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is right for you?

You’ve seen it over and over in TV shows. Someone’s heart stops and then you hear a loud “Clear!” One or two shocks, and the heart beats again showing the patient fully recovered. But in reality, the success of CPR depends upon many factors that include age, mental status, and state of health. For a person who is young and healthy, chances are promising that CPR can be successfully and return you to normal life. For a frail and elderly individual who has a severe, chronic condition, or debility, the odds that CPR can bring you back to a normal brain function are low. For some people, it’s important to live as long as possible; these people may want CPR even if it causes other medical problems. For others, it’s most important to pass naturally; these people may not want CPR.

Studies show that about 15% of all people who have CPR live through it. The success rate for the elderly with chronic conditions is 1 to 3% and those with advanced illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or end-stage heart, kidney or lung disease see a survival rate of less than 5%. If a person lives through CPR they are often placed on a ventilator and most individuals are not awake and cannot communicate. Some are unable to eat due to swallowing issues and are placed on a feeding tube.

For those unlikely to survive beyond six months, allowing their disease to run its natural course while keeping them comfortable allows for a death with dignity. This is why documenting your wishes and planning ahead are crucial. Should a medical crisis occur, both your family and physician will be confident in following through with your wishes.

The hospice philosophy holds that end-of-life care should emphasize quality of life. Patients that elect hospice elect to forgo aggressive treatments at that time. However, there is no legal requirement to force this choice by signing a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) before admission to hospice.