Are patients who are found deeply unconscious, without having suffered a cardiac arrest, always breathing normally?

Resuscitation. 2008 Aug;78(2):116-8. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2008.02.027. Epub 2008 May 16.


Aim: To evaluate how often an ambulance crew reports abnormal breathing among patients who are found deeply unconscious but without having suffered a cardiac arrest.

Methods: Patients with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) 3 (1+1+1) and without cardiac arrest were retrospectively evaluated, via ambulance records, for signs of abnormal breathing.

Results: Of 45 patients who fulfilled inclusion criteria, 24 (53%) had signs of abnormal breathing, as reported by the ambulance crew.

Conclusion: Signs of abnormal breathing among comatose patients with no cardiac arrest appear to be relatively common. This therefore increases the risk of starting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in such patients, which is in accordance with the present CPR guidelines for the lay person. Whether this might do harm to such patients is not known.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulances
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Heart Arrest / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration*
  • Unconsciousness / etiology
  • Unconsciousness / physiopathology*