CPR: It's not always a lifesaver, but it plays one on TV

August 28, 2015

If you think that performing CPR on a person whose heart has stopped is a surefire way to save their life, you may be watching too much TV.

The truth is more depressing than fiction, according to a new study by University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology researchers. While medical dramas Grey's Anatomy and House show cardiopulmonary resuscitation saving a patient's life nearly 70 percent of the time, the real immediate survival rate is nearly half that - around 37 percent.

Researchers also found another discrepancy between reality and TV: Half of the characters who received CPR made enough of a recovery to eventually leave the hospital, but in reality, only 13 percent of patients given CPR survive in the long-term, said senior author and Davis School Associate Professor Susan Enguidanos, an expert in end-of-life care.

"Most people have no knowledge of actual CPR survival and thus make medical care decisions for themselves and family members based on inaccurate assumptions," Enguidanos said.

Some people think it's a no-brainer that fiction sometimes distorts the truth, but research has shown that 42 percent of older adults report that their health knowledge comes from TV. Many are likely basing their care preferences on inaccurate ideas of what risks they face and how survivable a heart attack is, Enguidanos said.

For the study, the research team watched episodes of both shows that aired during 2010 and 2011, and found 46 separate depictions of CPR--involving either chest compressions or defibrillation. Investigators recorded not only whether the patients lived or died but also the cause of cardiac arrest and the apparent backgrounds and ages of those receiving CPR.

In addition to inaccurate survival rates, researchers found a number of other discrepancies.

The depictions show CPR mostly being performed on adults age 18 to 65, when in reality more than 60 percent of CPR recipients are older adults over 65, Enguidanos said. Also, trauma was behind nearly 40 percent of the CPR instances in the shows, even though traumatic injury cases only account for 2 percent of all CPR usage in real life.

When comparing these results to a similar study conducted in 1996, accuracy rates of television CPR depictions appear to not be improving. And though they seem like harmless entertainment, widespread inaccuracies in medical dramas could have real-life consequences.

Compounding the issue is the fact that the shows also largely fail to depict advance care planning and conversations about end-of-life choices. Among 91 episodes analyzed, only five patients and/or their families discussed care preferences with their doctors.

"The findings from this study emphasize the need for improved physician-patient communication and discussions around advance care planning decisions, such as CPR," said Jaclyn Portanova, Davis School Ph.D. in Gerontology student and first author of the study. "Without these discussions, patients may rely on misinformation from TV in their decision-making."
-end-
The study was co-authored by Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Aging student Krystle Irvine and Master of Science in Gerontology Jae Yoon Yi. It appeared online in the journal Resuscitation on August 18, 2015. The full article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.resuscitation.2015.08.002.

University of Southern California

Related CPR Articles from Brightsurf:

Extra precautions during CPR due to the pandemic do not have a negative impact on survival
A U.S. medical center compared outcomes of patients in 2019 and 2020 who had in-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to determine if safety precautions due to the pandemic affect patient survival.

CPR choices of dialysis patients suggest many lack context
Globally some 2 million people with failed kidneys undergo hemodialysis treatment.

Bystander CPR less likely for people living in Hispanic neighborhoods
People living in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods are less likely to receive CPR from a bystander following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest compared to people living in non-Hispanic neighborhoods, researchers from Penn Medicine and the Duke University of School of Medicine reported in the journal Circulation.

Ontario physicians do not need consent to withhold CPR that they feel will not benefit patients
In August, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed a malpractice lawsuit filed against two physicians who refused to provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to an 88-year-old man with multiple comorbidities and multiorgan failure.

Legal risk of not performing CPR higher than providing lifesaving assistance
While some bystanders may fail to attempt CPR because they fear legal liability, the likelihood of facing litigation is higher for delaying or failing to intervene, according to preliminary research to be presented at the American Heart Association's Resuscitation Science Symposium 2019 -- Nov.

Use of emergency CPR device rising despite lack of evidence
While its use is expanding, mechanical CPR has not been tested for effectiveness by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

University of Minnesota researchers find new ways to improve CPR
An international research consortium, which included faculty members from the University of Minnesota Medical School, was able to identify what is likely an optimal combination of chest compression frequency and depth when performing CPR.

Bystander CPR less likely for black kids in poorest neighborhoods
African-American kids from the most disadvantaged areas are about half as likely to receive emergency bystander CPR following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest than white children in disadvantaged or more prosperous neighborhoods.

Compression-only CPR increases survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
In a Swedish study of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, bystander CPR rates nearly doubled and compression-only, or Hands-Only CPR, rates increased six-fold over the 18-year review.

Two novel studies explore why women receive less CPR from bystanders
Separate studies explore why women are less likely to receive bystander CPR.

Read More: CPR News and CPR Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.