What are the Potential Complications of CPR?


If you are a resident of Indianapolis, you may have considered taking a CPR class. CPR or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a lifesaving procedure. What are the potential complications of CPR, and how can you minimize the risks?

CPR can be an invaluable practice when a heart stops beating or in the case of drowning. CPR can restore a normal heart rhythm and maintain the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain and vital organs. Without CPR, the brain will begin to shut down in as little as 4-6 minutes. In this article, we’ll examine the complications that can occur during CPR, including physical injuries, neurological damage, and psychological trauma. We’ll also look at the steps to minimize these risks.

Physical Complications of CPR

First, let’s look at the physical complications that can result from CPR. It is important to note that most of the complications are not life-threatening and, thus, should not deter one from performing CPR.

      • Rib fractures and other chest injuries. This is the most common physical complication of CPR. CPR should be performed quickly and with adequate force to compress the chest at least 2 inches. The sternum also sustains a good amount of pressure during CPR. Fractures are generally not life-threatening and can heal without binding in 8-12 weeks.

      • Lung injuries: A person can sustain lung injuries in the form of a pneumothorax or a collapsed lung. It also signifies that the lung has separated from the chest cavity. If you suspect a pneumothorax, observe the patient for signs of shortness of breath, an accelerated pulse, or pressure in the chest cavity. If your victim is not breathing and without a heartbeat, determining whether they have a lung injury or not can be hard. Although this is a life-threatening complication, it is very rare.

      • Abdominal injuries: Abdominal injuries could happen when performing CPR because of the forceful chest compression. Additionally, if the individual has prior internal injuries or has recently had abdominal surgery, this can become particularly dangerous for them. A bystander cannot possibly know the victim’s medical history, and they will not be properly trained to identify signs of internal bleeding.

      • Damage to blood vessels: Giving someone CPR can lead to a long-term side effect on the blood vessels, such as a hardening of the blood vessels. CPR causes inflammation of the blood vessels, and this hardening can eventually cause the individual to suffer a heart attack.

      • Cardiac Tamponade: During vigorous compressions, the space around the heart can fill with fluid or bleed. This requires a medical professional to drain the fluid from around the heart. A layperson cannot perform this task, making this a particularly dangerous side effect of CPR.

      • Infection: This is a complication for both the rescuer and the patient. During mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, there can be exposure to saliva, blood, and vomit, and an infection can be passed between the two people.

    Neurological Complications of CPR

    There are also a number of neurological complications that can adversely affect the outcomes of CPR.

        • Brain damage: CPR provides the brain with life-saving supplies of oxygen-rich blood. However, it cannot replace the heart’s function, and oxygen is depleted at a rate of 5%. The brain simply cannot get enough blood to sustain proper function. So the longer the victim goes without CPR and a heartbeat, the more damage to their brain. Brain damage starts 4-6 minutes after the heart stops which can be irreversible after 10 minutes. Quick action is required to preserve the peak function of the brain.

        • Seizures: When the lungs cannot perform their function and deliver clean oxygen to the body, metabolic waste begins to build up. This is detrimental to the entire body, but the brain will show signs of distress first.

        • Coma: The deficiency of blood and oxygen to the brain can also result in the patient going into a coma.

      Psychological Complications of CPR

      CPR can result in psychological problems for the patient as well.

          • Anxiety and depression: Survivor guilt or a loss of physical function can result in anxiety and depression. If the survivor was part of a widespread event that resulted in a loss of life for others, this could cause survivor’s guilt. Decreased physical function can be a difficult reality for anyone to get used to. Although anxiety and depression are serious issues, they can usually be overcome with proper treatment and time.

          • Emotional trauma: The rescuer could also suffer emotionally. Professional or layperson, the chances of failing to save a life with CPR are greater than those of success. The rescuer can have a difficult time coming to terms with the loss of life, particularly if they are not accustomed to losing a patient as nurses and doctors are.

        Risk Factors for Complications

        Some people are more susceptible to suffering from complications associated with CPR than others. The condition of the patient can contribute to CPR’s success, but so can the experience and resources available to the rescuer.

            • Age and physical condition of the patient: If the patient is older, suffering from osteoporosis, or very young, there is an increased risk of bone damage.

            • Experience and skill level of the person administering CPR: If the rescuer is certified in CPR, they have a greater chance of performing CPR correctly. If the rescuer is inexperienced, they are more likely to make a mistake that can cause complications.

            • Availability of appropriate equipment and resources: Equipment such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and automated external defibrillators (AEDs) can be life-saving in an emergency. PPE can protect all involved from infections. AEDs are easy-to-use devices that can detect heart activity and deliver a life-saving shock if needed. They often include voice prompts and graphics to help the rescuer use them properly. If PPE is unavailable, many rescuers may refrain from performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

            • Underlying health conditions: There are certain factors that a layperson cannot be aware of or able to diagnose. If the patient is already suffering from a health condition, this may impact the effectiveness of CPR.

            • Length of CPR performed: CPR should be performed at the earliest possible moment and for a required length of 30 chest compressions and 2 breaths. Chest compressions should be 100-120 per minute.

            • Quality of CPR performed: If the pressure is wrong, compressions are done too fast or too slow; these can all impact the overall quality of the CPR, decrease the success level, and increase the chance of injury.

          Steps to minimize the risks of complications

          We can take steps to mitigate the risks involved with CPR. For example, proper CPR training in Indianapolis can help you learn how to perform it correctly. The fact remains that CPR is a life-saving procedure, and it is better to perform CPR than it is to not act.

              • Proper training and certification of CPR providers: Classes are available in most areas. Once CPR is practiced properly, it is committed to your muscle memory. So even in a stressful situation, you will be able to access the memory of how to perform it properly. CPR classes are available in most areas around Indianapolis and can be extremely valuable.

              • Use of appropriate equipment and techniques: If PPE is available to rescuers, they should use it. If AEDs are available, it is highly useful to get training on how to use them and employ their use should the need arise.

            The suggested equipment may not always be available, but training is readily available in Indianapolis and can mean the difference between life and death for someone in need.


            So when evaluating what are the potential complications of CPR and whether it is worth the risk, one needs to balance their level of training with the needs of the victim. Even if you are not trained, it is always better to try CPR. If PPE is unavailable, it is also possible to perform compression-only CPR without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Some researchers have found this method to be as effective as traditional CPR.

            It’s important to note that Not all victims can be saved, despite your best efforts. There may be extenuating circumstances that a layperson cannot possibly diagnose or treat. Sometimes lives may be lost, and sometimes there will be injuries. Each individual needs to weigh the benefits against the risks and make their best decision. Regardless of the situation, it is always best to notify medical professionals of Indianapolis at the scene before any other actions are taken.