It’s natural to feel confused and upset when CPR does not successfully revive someone after a sudden cardiac arrest. You may wonder why your best efforts didn’t lead to the outcome you hoped for. However, it’s important to understand the limitations of CPR and why it does not always save someone after cardiac arrest.
What CPR Can and Can’t Do
While commonly seen as lifesaving, CPR is a temporary intervention to buy minutes until professional medics arrive. By manually pumping the heart, it aims to maintain some blood flow to vital organs like the brain. However, it cannot replace normal heart function. Even when perfectly performed to guidelines, CPR provides only 10-30% of normal circulation. The success of CPR depends on many factors, including when it’s started after arrest, the underlying cause, and the patient’s overall health.
The Major Limitations of CPR
While critical, CPR has significant limitations. It helps supply some oxygen to the brain and other vital organs, but cannot fulfill all the body’s needs. The manual compressions do not fully restore breathing, regulate blood pressure, or treat the condition that caused the cardiac arrest. CPR provides only a fraction of the heart’s usual blood pumping ability and oxygen delivery.
CPR Does Not Directly Save Lives
While an essential emergency tool, it is highly unlikely that CPR alone can directly bring someone back to life after cardiac arrest. It aims to delay death and buy time by preserving a small amount of blood flow until the underlying problem can be treated. We should approach CPR knowing it indicates the heart has stopped beating and outcomes are unpredictable. Timely defibrillation and advanced life support are also needed.
The Variability of Cardiac Arrest Outcomes
Patients of all ages suffer sudden cardiac arrest. Some who seem very likely to survive end up passing away, while others who appear beyond hope can fully recover with prompt bystander CPR and quick emergency care. As someone attempting to help, your role is simply to give each patient the best possible chance. But every life and situation is unique – cardiac arrest outcomes are variable and unpredictable.
Seeking Help After a Difficult Resuscitation
It’s heartbreaking to lose someone you desperately tried to save. While an invaluable skill, CPR may not always lead to revival. It’s important not to let feelings of frustration, self-doubt or disappointment prevent you from stepping up to help the next person. If a resuscitation leaves you needing emotional support, talk to trusted friends, a counsellor, your doctor, or a crisis hotline.
Take time to process the experience, your efforts make a difference.