What are the Potential Complications of CPR?

What are the potential complications of CPR?

CPR is an important technique for saving lives in an emergency, but it also has its downsides, like every other medical method. While it can help someone whose heart or breathing has stopped, certain potential side effects require a cautious approach.

CPR is one of the most beneficial emergency techniques, so what are the possible complications? To better grasp the nature and implications of a few potential issues, we will look at them in further detail.

Possible Complications During CPR

Those who have experienced a cardiac arrest or another medical emergency know that cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be a life-saving intervention. It aims to restore breathing and circulation. Nonetheless, CPR is not without the possibility of mistakes, and being aware of them can help you assess the advantages and disadvantages of CPR in emergency situations.

Damage to Internal Organs

Damage to internal organs during CPR is a potential complication that can happen due to the forceful chest compressions used to circulate blood. If internal bleeding is not properly diagnosed and treated, it may result in damage to the body’s internal organs and become a major life threat.

The most vulnerable to internal organ injury during CPR are those who recently had abdominal surgery or pre-existing medical conditions. Unfortunately, a bystander administering CPR cannot know of this condition, which is why it’s a potential CPR complication.

Possibility of Broken Ribs

The possibility of broken ribs is relatively uncommon during CPR but not impossible. The risk of complications can increase, including lung puncture. In fact, the appearance of broken ribs may be a sign that the compressions were done using a lot of force to help restore blood circulation. You should keep an eye out for symptoms of broken ribs, such as chest discomfort, breathing difficulty, or coughing up blood.

Danger of Brain Damage

The brain will experience several negative consequences when deprived of oxygen and lack of blood flow. Proper CPR delivery will lower the danger of brain damage and can be achieved by using the correct compression depth and tempo.

Correct administration of CPR will restore normal breathing and limit interruptions to chest compressions. You can avoid brain damage by reviving blood flow and oxygen to the brain.


A pneumothorax also referred to as collapsed lung, is characterized by shortness of breath, an accelerated pulse, and chest pressure. These are just some of the complications a victim can experience during such a life-threatening condition when the lung separates from the chest wall and no longer functions properly.

There is a possibility of CPR causing pneumothorax, but it is less common than a rib injury, for example. However, this small risk should not stop you from delivering CPR to a victim in need.

Cardiac tamponade

Cardiac tamponade, a rare but significant CPR complication, can result from vigorous chest compressions. The part that surrounds and protects the heart may bleed or fill with fluid as a result of the compressions. Prompt therapy, which includes inserting a needle or catheter to drain the fluid, may be necessary if cardiac tamponade happens.

Studies show that cardiac tamponade is the most undesired CPR complication, which is why close monitoring is preferable after CPR.


Infection can happen during CPR due to exposure to fluids like blood, saliva, vomit, and mucus. Infectious microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, may be dangerous and damaging to your health.

Guidelines advise using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks, and eye protection to reduce the possibility of coming into contact with body fluids.

Risks Associated with Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Sometimes administering CPR to individuals with underlying medical conditions can carry additional risks and complications. Here are some examples:

      • Osteoporosis or other bone conditions – the risk of rib fractures and chest injuries during CPR.

      • Heart disease or hypertension – the risk of cardiac tamponade or cardiovascular complications during resuscitation.

      • Lung disease or respiratory conditions – the risk of pneumothorax or hypoxia during CPR.

    By taking a personalized and informed approach to resuscitation, healthcare providers can help minimize the risks and improve the outcomes of CPR for individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.

    Potential Long-term Effects of CPR on Survivors

    Even when CPR is effective, victims may still suffer from disorientation, short-term memory loss, or issues focusing and paying attention. CPR can also result in physical and mental harm. Survivors could feel pain and discomfort or have their physical activities restricted, and they might need continuing medical attention and rehabilitation.

    Psychological Trauma

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, sadness, and survivor guilt are just a few of the emotional and psychological symptoms. PTSD is a typical psychological reaction to stressful experiences that survivors of cardiac arrest and resuscitation may suffer.

    Flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts connected to the incident may occur to survivors, which can cause serious discomfort and impair normal functioning.

    Decreased Quality of Life

    Survivors may have a variety of physical and mental problems that might affect how well they operate on a daily basis, including exhaustion, memory loss, and mobility restrictions. As a result of extended immobility, physical impairments may occur, such as muscular weakness, joint stiffness, and restricted range of motion.

    Conditions that might arise as a result of an event, such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD, may have an even greater impact on a person’s quality of life.

    Post-cardiac Arrest Syndrome

    Another potential long-term effect of CPR on survivors is post-cardiac arrest syndrome (PCAS). PCAS can cause a variety of symptoms, but the most frequent ones are metabolic imbalances, cardiovascular dysfunction, and neurological impairments.

    Cardiovascular dysfunction includes arrhythmias, low blood pressure, and decreased cardiac output. Elevated blood glucose, acid-base disturbances, and electrolyte abnormalities are examples of metabolic derangements.

    The long-term outlook for PCAS survivors can be unpredictable. While some people fully recover, others continue to have deficiencies.

    Rehabilitation and Therapy After Complications of CPR

    Rehabilitation and therapy are essential for individuals who experience complications after undergoing CPR. Depending on the nature and severity of the complications, the patient may require physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy to recover fully. These therapies can help the patient regain strength, mobility, and coordination.

    Therapy and rehabilitation can also address any cognitive or communication impairments that may have resulted from CPR or its associated complications. Collaborating closely with healthcare professionals is crucial when creating a customized rehabilitation plan. This will assist them in achieving their objectives, regaining their independence, and improving their general quality of life.

    Mitigating the Risks of CPR

    A bystander needs to balance the risk of postponing CPR and the risk of injury. This will reduce the risk of any mistakes and enhance a successful outcome.

    Training and Certification for CPR Providers

    Training and certification programs available for CPR providers to guarantee that the procedure is carried out safely and successfully. These classes are designed to provide learners with the skills and information they need to conduct CPR in life-threatening situations.

    Some organizations and groups provide a variety of CPR training programs, such as:

        • Basic life support (BLS) for medical professionals

        • CPR and Automated external defibrillator (AED) for lay rescuers

        • CPR and first aid for workplace safety

      Use of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs)

      An AED can be used to immediately check the heart rhythm of someone who has had a sudden cardiac arrest and provide a shock if necessary. AEDs frequently offer voice prompts and graphic assistance that walk users through the device’s use.

      The American Heart Association claims that using an AED to shock someone who has gone into cardiac arrest during the first three to five minutes can increase their chance of survival by up to 70%. It is advised that people take formal training and obtain certification in order to utilize an AED efficiently. AED usage is covered in many CPR training programs as well.

      Communicating Potential Complications to Patients and Families

      Communicate and answer any concerns or questions the patient or family may have in a straightforward and caring way. Discussing the patient’s medical history that can raise their risk of complications is one method to convey the possible hazards of CPR.

      Effective communication can aid patients and their families in comprehending the possible dangers and advantages of CPR by supplying factual information and addressing concerns in a sympathetic way.


      It is essential to realize that CPR is a life-saving method that may be able to save someone’s life. It’s crucial to start CPR as soon as possible in emergency situations, but it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not always effective and can sometimes even have harmful effects.

      It’s critical to weigh each situation’s potential benefits and drawbacks before performing CPR. Keep everyone’s safety in mind, particularly when there is a chance of viral transmission. Rescuers need to take safety measures, such as donning PPE and minimizing their exposure to human fluids. Therefore the best course of action must be decided with the help of healthcare professionals and with prompt medical treatment.