Complications of CPR

Complications of CPR

In an emergency where someone suffers a cardiac arrest, performing CPR is always more advisable than standing by and doing nothing. However, since most people perform CPR incorrectly, it’s essential to understand the potential complications that can arise. After all, you are trying to save someone’s life. Therefore, you should know what to avoid. 

The American Heart Association found that 45% of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients survived when they received CPR. This stat reflects the obvious benefit of citizens learning CPR and how to apply it correctly. However, roughly 70 percent of Americans feel uncomfortable administering CPR, a grim stat when you look at the 350,000 cardiac arrests that occur outside of the hospital each year. 

Because there is such a high demand for CPR-trained citizens, you should take advantage of American CPR training that builds your confidence in cardiac arrest emergencies. A significant portion of comprehensive CPR training deals with diagnosing the situation correctly and understanding when to perform CPR. 

This article discusses the potential complications that can happen if you administer CPR incorrectly or when a patient suffers from a condition that does not require CPR. A better understanding of the situations that call for CPR will help you act swiftly in emergencies where there is no time to hesitate. 

Why Does Performing CPR Correctly Matter?

Performing CPR correctly matters because insufficient force won’t circulate the patient’s blood fast enough to oxygenate their body. A study published in the NCBI shows that the correct directions for people performing CPR are to “push as hard as you can.” The study found that adequate compression depth improved shock success in cardiac arrest. 

CPR Complications 

Inadequate Chest Compressions 

Failure to compress the breastbone deep enough results in reduced blood flow to the brain and other vital organs. This reduced blood flow reduces the patient’s chance of survival. Bouncing chest compressions can also move the compressor’s hands off the correct location and result in insufficient chest compressions. 


Another one of CPR’s most common complications is injury, which seems trivial compared to worse consequences such as brain death and death. Because you must administer chest compressions with enough force to keep the blood circulating, even correctly performed CPR can break ribs or the sternum. Pressing too hard in the wrong location can also cause internal injuries such as liver, spleen, or lung bleeding. 

If you notice a cracking noise, you should adjust your hands’ position and continue administering chest compressions. Again, a broken rib will heal; the brain death that results from the lack of oxygen and circulation will not. If you fail to press hard enough on the patient’s ribs, their brain won’t receive enough oxygen, and the tissue will start to die. 

Bruising and soreness are other common injuries that result from CPR. The degree of damage in all cases ranges from mild to severe. 

Too Much Air in the Stomach 

Breathing too much air into the patient can trap air in the stomach and cause the patient to either vomit or bloat. 

If the patient vomits, turn their head to the side to ensure they don’t choke. If there is a potential head, neck, or spinal injury, make sure to turn them on their side without contorting the head or back in a way that compromises their spinal integrity. After they finish, clear their airway with a cloth wrapped around your hand. 

If the patient is still in cardiac arrest, carefully return them to their original position and resume CPR.

Aspiration Pneumonia 

Aspiration pneumonia results from a patient inhaling vomit or other foreign objects.  Aspiration pneumonia can significantly complicate recovery and be fatal, even if the victim survives cardiac arrest. 


Many people worry about whether they can contract diseases from CPR. For example, someone worries that giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can give them HIV or Hepatitis. Though it’s not impossible to contract a disease from performing CPR, it is doubtful. In over 35 years since CPR data began, there hasn’t been a single case reported. 

If you are administering CPR and have a barrier on-hand, such as a mask, you can apply it to your face. However, if you don’t have it on-hand, you don’t have much time to find one. Cardiac arrests are emergencies, and the likelihood of contracting a disease from the person you administer mouth-to-mouth is low. 

However, in the age of COVID, you may feel more at-risk. If this is the case, consider carrying an extra mask so you can discard it after performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. 

Legal Issues 

In life or death situations such as those that require CPR, your goal should be to save the patient’s life. However, there is a legitimate worry that causing injury to the patient will have legal ramifications down the road. Luckily, most states have good samaritan laws in place that indemnify you against such recourse. 

Misdiagnosing Cardiac Arrest 

If you’re in an emergency, recognizing and appropriately diagnosing cardiac arrest can be difficult. You may mistake cardiac arrest for something else, like someone fainting. You may also mistakenly apply CPR to someone who isn’t in cardiac arrest. 

Understanding the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack is another important CPR component that can cause potentially adverse outcomes. Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage of blood reaching the heart. Cardiac arrest is a neurological miscommunication with the heart’s rhythm. The only time you need to perform CPR during a heart attack is if the patient goes into cardiac arrest. 

Act Swiftly to Save a Life

Performing CPR immediately can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why understanding the potential complications and what to avoid better prepares you for these types of emergencies. 

If you witness someone lose consciousness due to cardiac arrest, the first thing you should do is call 911. After calling 911, begin performing chest compressions for thirty seconds at the rate of 100 compressions per minute. Then perform two rescue breaths. After completing two rescue breaths, resume chest compressions.

The best way to protect yourself from potential CPR complications is to get certified by a respectable institution. Completing your CPR courses in Mississauga ensures that you don’t have to sacrifice your personal or professional life.