Most patients are unconscious when doctors perform CPR on them, but one story out of Europe shows that this is not always the case.
Events That Lead To CPR For The Patient
In 2016, an anonymous 69-year-old man was rushed to the emergency room after feeling breathless for a few hours. For the previous three days, he had experienced indigestion and nausea. After he experienced a period of rapid heart rate at the hospital, he went into cardiac arrest.
Doctors told his story on June 4 during a presentation at the European Anaesthesiology Congress in Copenhagen, Denmark. Medical staff responded to the patient's needs by providing an oxygen mask. The cardiac arrest team performed Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the patient to save his life.
Doctors Perform CPR On The Patient
For the next 90 minutes, as doctors performed CPR on the man, he reportedly showed signs of conscious awareness. The patient reportedly moved his eyes, hands, and legs. He also gestured to the doctors.
When the patient showed signs of life, the doctors stopped CPR. However, he soon went back into cardiac arrest because his heart was not working. Doctors said that his heart lacked electrical activity and spontaneous rhythm.
Every three to five minutes, doctors administered epinephrine (adrenaline) to try to restore his pulse.
An hour into CPR, doctors conducted an ultrasound scan of the patient's heart. When he first entered the hospital, he did not have any type of scan before the cardiac arrest. With the ultrasound, the doctors discovered that the patient suffered a complete aortic dissection, which is a fatal condition where the inner layer of the large blood vessel branching off the heart tears.
Despite the medical attention from the doctors, the patient did not survive.
Are Patients Normally Awake During CPR?
It is extremely rare for patients to exhibit signs of consciousness and awareness during CPR because of the low level of blood flow to the brain. A 2014 study found that only about 2 percent of patients exhibit full awareness during cardiac arrest.
"It is much more likely to have people waking up during compressions when the additive effect of compressions on an already beating heart raises the blood pressure to a sufficient level to provide enough blood flow to the brain," Dr. Sam Parnia, a co-author on that 2014 study, told CNN.
Doctors at the European Anaesthesiology Congress debated the possibility of sedating patients during CPR.