Background: Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a dramatic, costly, and often futile intervention whose appropriate use is under scrutiny. Physicians often ask patients and families to make decisions about resuscitation for themselves or loved ones. Clinical variables and personal beliefs may influence physician recommendations about CPR.
Methods: Physicians (N = 451) at a tertiary care hospital were surveyed to determine the following: (1) the factors they consider when recommending in-hospital CPR, (2) the conditions under which they discuss CPR with patients, (3) their recent participation in CPR attempts, (4) their perceptions of its effectiveness, (5) their personal wishes regarding their own resuscitation, and (6) their personal and professional characteristics.
Results: The patient's self-reported wishes about resuscitation and physician judgment of medical utility were the most important influences on physician recommendations. Most physicians believe that patients with metastatic cancer or late Alzheimer's disease should not be resuscitated. Age alone was not viewed as an important clinical consideration. Guidance from hospital policies and ethics committees had the least influence on physicians. Physicians overestimated the likelihood of survival to hospital discharge after in-hospital CPR by as much as 300% for some clinical situations and predicted an overall success rate of 30%.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that most physicians are thoughtful and discriminating in their recommendations to patients about CPR. Patient's wishes are of paramount importance, followed by physician judgment of medical utility. However, physicians do overestimate the efficacy of CPR and may thus misrepresent the potential utility of this therapy to patients and their families.