Characteristics of patients who are not resuscitated in out of hospital cardiac arrests and opportunities to improve community response to cardiac arrest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • S. Rajagopal
  • C. R. Kaye
  • R. Lall
  • C. D. Deakin
  • H. Pocock
  • T. Quinn
  • N. Rees
  • M. Smyth
  • G. D. Perkins

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Department of Geriatric Medicine, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Solihull Hospital, Birmingham, UK.
  • University Hospital Southampton
  • Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kingston University and St. George's
  • Welsh Ambulance Service NHS Trust


Aim This study explores why resuscitation is withheld when emergency medical staff arrive at the scene of a cardiac arrest and identifies modifiable factors associated with this decision. Methods This is a secondary analysis of unselected patients who sustained an out of hospital cardiac arrest attended by ambulance vehicles participating in a randomized controlled trial of a mechanical chest compression device (PARAMEDIC trial). Patients were categorized as ‘non-resuscitation’ patients if there was a do-not-attempt-cardiopulmonary-resuscitation (DNACPR) order, signs unequivocally associated with death or resuscitation was deemed futile (15 min had elapsed since collapse with no bystander-CPR and asystole recorded on EMS arrival). Results Emergency Medical Services attended 11,451 cardiac arrests. Resuscitation was attempted or continued by Emergency Medical Service staff in 4805 (42%) of cases. Resuscitation was withheld in 6646 cases (58%). 711 (6.2%) had a do not attempt resuscitation decision, 4439 (38.8%) had signs unequivocally associated with death and in 1496 cases (13.1%) CPR was considered futile. Those where resuscitation was withheld due to futility were characterised by low bystander CPR rates (7.2%) and by being female. Conclusions Resuscitation was withheld by ambulance staff in over one in ten (13.1%) victims of out of hospital cardiac arrest on the basis of futility. These cases were associated with a very low rate of bystander CPR. Future studies should explore strengthening the ‘Chain of Survival’ to increase the community bystander CPR response and evaluate the effect on the numbers of survivors from out of hospital cardiac arrest.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-115
Number of pages6
Early online date17 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016


  • Bystander CPR, DNACPR, Emergency Medical Services, Out of hospital cardiac arrest, Pre-hospital emergencies