Medical futility regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation in in-hospital cardiac arrests of adult patients: A systematic review and Meta-analysis

Resuscitation. 2022 Mar:172:181-193. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2021.11.041. Epub 2021 Dec 9.


Aim: For some patients, survival with good neurologic function after cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is highly unlikely, thus CPR would be considered medically futile. Yet, in clinical practice, there are no well-established criteria, guidelines or measures to determine futility. We aimed to investigate how medical futility for CPR in adult patients is defined, measured, and associated with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) code status as well as to evaluate the predictive value of clinical risk scores through meta-analysis.

Methods: We searched Embase, PubMed, CINAHL, and PsycINFO from the inception of each database up to January 22, 2021. Data were pooled using a fixed-effects model. Data collection and reporting followed the PRISMA guidelines.

Results: Thirty-one studies were included in the systematic review and 11 in the meta-analysis. Medical futility defined by risk scores was associated with a significantly higher risk of in-hospital mortality (5 studies, 3102 participants with Pre-Arrest Morbidity (PAM) and Prognosis After Resuscitation (PAR) score; overall RR 3.38 [95% CI 1.92-5.97]) and poor neurologic outcome/in-hospital mortality (6 studies, 115,213 participants with Good Outcome Following Attempted Resuscitation (GO-FAR) and Prediction of Outcome for In-Hospital Cardiac Arrest (PIHCA) score; RR 6.93 [95% CI 6.43-7.47]). All showed high specificity (>90%) for identifying patients with poor outcome.

Conclusion: There is no international consensus and a lack of specific definitions of CPR futility in adult patients. Clinical risk scores might aid decision-making when CPR is assumed to be futile. Future studies are needed to assess their clinical value and reliability as a measure of futility regarding CPR.

Keywords: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation; Clinical risk score; Do not resuscitate; In-hospital mortality; Medical futility; Neurological outcome.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Heart Arrest* / therapy
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Medical Futility
  • Reproducibility of Results