Deeper chest compression - more complications for cardiac arrest patients?

Resuscitation. 2013 Jun;84(6):760-5. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2013.02.015. Epub 2013 Mar 5.


Aim of the study: Sternal and rib fractures are frequent complications caused by chest compressions during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). This study aimed to investigate the potential association of CPR-related thoracic and abdominal injuries and compression depth measured with an accelerometer.

Methods: We analysed the autopsy records, CT scans or chest radiographs of 170 adult patients, suffering in-hospital cardiac arrest at the Tampere University Hospital during the period 2009-2011 to investigate possible association of chest compressions and iatrogenic injuries. The quality of manual compressions during CPR was recorded on a Philips, HeartStart MRx Q-CPR™-defibrillator.

Results: Patients were 110 males and 60 females. Injuries were found in 36% of male and 23% of female patients. Among male patients CPR-related injuries were associated with deeper mean - and peak compression depths (p<0.05). No such association was observed in women. The frequency of injuries in mean compression depth categories <5, 5-6 and >6 cm, was 28%, 27% and 49% (p=0.06). Of all patients 27% sustained rib fractures, 11% sternal fracture and eight patients had haematomas/ruptures in the myocardium. In addition, we observed one laceration of the stomach without bleeding, one ruptured spleen, one mediastinal haemorrhage and two pneumothoraxes.

Conclusion: The number of iatrogenic injuries in male patients was associated with chest compressions during cardiopulmonary resuscitation increased as the measured compression depth exceeded 6 cm. While there is an increased risk of complications with deeper compressions it is important to realize that the injuries were by and large not fatal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / epidemiology
  • Abdominal Injuries / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Heart Arrest / therapy*
  • Heart Massage / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pressure
  • Thoracic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Thoracic Injuries / etiology*