CPR? What is it?

CPR is cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It’s done when a patient’s heart stops. In the hospital environment this is called a “Code” or a “Code Blue.”
A common misconception about CPR is that performing CPR on a loved one whose heart has stopped will ‘bring them back’, or that it might allow their loved one to live longer. Actually, particularly in elderly patients, the survival rate of CPR is extremely low. Yes, the person may actually be revived at the moment, but the risk of a repeated cardiac or respiratory arrest continues to be very high, very often in less than 24-48 hours.
The CPR procedure is very violent and traumatic. The patient faces the complications of CPR, including severe bruising, bruised or broken ribs, risk of punctured lungs, and even a punctured liver. These complications are normal risks associated with CPR, even when done absolutely correctly. Catients who have ‘coded’ will almost always have a breathing tube through their mouth or nose into their lungs, with a machine breathing for them. There will be IV lines, monitors, and possibly other tubes and machines attached to them. The patient will be in an intensive care unit, and they will probably be sedated to prevent them from pulling out the tubes or injuring themselves. The patient is also unable to eat in this condition and this raises the question of surgically installing a feeding tube. The patient my have to be restrained (tied down) to keep him/her from pulling out wires and tubes. The necessary sedation and immobility now puts the patient at a much higher risk for pneumonia, blood clots, skin breakdown and bedsores, and aspiration (inhalation of fluids).
Unfortunately, most of the cardiac and/or respiratory arrests in the senior population are directly related to underlying medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, strokes, and the general aging process. Because of the combination of pre-existent medical conditions, in addition to the potential complications mentioned above, they may actually survive the initial cardiopulmonary arrest, but the outcome is very rarely positive.
The DNR should not be confused with advanced directives for medical care. Advanced directives address issues such as use of tube feedings, IV fluids, specific medications, medical power of attorney, type of care desired, and other decisions that are made by the individual themselves. If you have questions about advance directives, speak with your primary health care provider, who can provide you with information and the necessary forms and instructions.
Become informed. Make informed decisions about end-of-life care for yourself and your loved ones. Talk with your physician. Talk with your family. Seek legal counsel if needed. Make your wishes known, and have the appropriate forms filled out, signed, and in the proper hands. Doing so now can save your family lots of heartache, guilt and questions later.


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