Although it's routine to ask patients admitted to hospitals about their wishes if they should stop breathing, few understand exactly what cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) means, what its likely to accomplish and its risks and benefits. In a blog printed in the New York Times, Dr. Dhruv Khullar, a resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, says patients should get more detailed explanations.
There's no doubt CPR saves lives, says Dr. Khullar. It can revive victims of heart attacks, drowning and drug overdoses. But its administration can be rough and cause internal bleeding, fractured ribs, bruised lungs, and damaged airways. In cases of people with terminal diseases, he says, some argue that CPR can lead to a prolonged, painful death.
Most elderly patients overestimate their chances of leaving the hospital after being resuscitated, Dr. Khullar writes. A study found that 81 percent believe that their chances of leaving the hospital are greater than 50 percent following CPR, while statistics show that only 10 to 20 percent live that long. When told the actual odds, patients are only half as likely to request CPR.
Television medical dramas may be giving people an inflated view of CPR's success, says Dr. Khullar, and patients should get an accurate explanation of CPR before they sign a paper stating they wish the procedure if they stop breathing.
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