Contribution of chest compressions to end-tidal carbon dioxide levels generated during out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Resuscitation. 2022 Oct:179:225-232. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2022.07.009. Epub 2022 Jul 11.


Aim: Characterise how changes in chest compression depth and rate affect variations in end-tidal CO2 (ETCO2) during manual cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA).

Methods: Retrospective analysis of adult OHCA monitor-defibrillator recordings having concurrent capnogram, compression depth, transthoracic impedance and ECG, and with atleast 1,000 compressions. Within each patient, during no spontaneous circulation, nearby segments with changes in chest compression depth and rate were identified. Average ETCO2 within each segment was standardised to compensate for ventilation rate variability. Contributions of relative variations in depth and rate to relative variations in standardised ETCO2 were characterised using linear and non-linear models. Normalisation between paired segments removed intra and inter-patient variation and made coefficients of the model independent of the scale of measurement and therefore directly comparable.

Results: A total of 394 pairs of segments from 221 patients were analysed (33% female, median (IQR) age 66 (55-74) years). Chest compression depth and rate were 50.4 (43.2-57.0)mm and 111.1 (106.5-116.1)compressions per minute. ETCO2 before and after standardization was 32.1 (23.0-41.4)mmHg and 28.5 (19.4-38.7)mmHg. Linear model coefficient of determination was 0.89. Variation in compression depth mainly explained ETCO2 variation (coefficient 0.95, 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.93-0.98) while changes in compression rate did not (coefficient 0.04, 95% CI: 0.01-0.07). Non-linear trend analysis confirmed the results.

Conclusion: This study quantified the relative importance of chest compression characteristics in terms of their impact on CO2 production during CPR. With ventilation rate standardised, variation in chest compression depth explained variations in ETCO2 better than variation in chest compression rate.

Keywords: Advanced life support (ALS); Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); Chest compression depth; Chest compression quality; Chest compression rate; End-tidal CO(2); Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA); Ventilation rate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation* / methods
  • Female
  • Hospitals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Carbon Dioxide