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Study on CPR length sheds light on potential hospital negligence

Doctors and hospitals face difficult decisions daily. One of the toughest judgment calls is how long to keep going with CPR. A recent study suggests that doctors may be stopping too soon.

The study looked at hundreds of hospitals and found that patients are more likely to survive in hospitals that continue CPR only nine minutes longer than other hospitals. The study results raise some questions about potential negligent medical care when it comes to CPR.

First, information about the study: The senior author of the study is a University of Michigan associate professor and cardiologist in Ann Arbor. Financing for the research came from the American Hospital Association, the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The researchers in the study focused on hospitalized adults staying in intensive care or in regular beds.

The traditional thought among medical professionals is that continuing resuscitation efforts beyond a certain point is futile because the few patients who do bounce back incur neurological damage in the process. However, the study found that those who survived after longer CPR episodes did just as well as those who bounced back quickly; the neurological function was alike in both instances.

In fact, patients were 12 percent more likely to survive in hospitals with the longest CPR times compared to those with the shortest times.

Failure to provide adequate resuscitation efforts may constitute hospital negligence. In some cases, injured patients and their families may be able to recover damages through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Hospitals can be held liable when members of their staff aren't adequately trained or are otherwise not competent to provide services, including CPR, and where the hospital should have been aware of the issue. Hospitals may also face liability for staff shortages that impact their patients' care and for failing to follow a treatment plan provided by a patient's private physician.

The study is unprecedented in that it is the first to connect the length of CPR resuscitation to survival rates. The findings are important to all hospitals and health care facilities, many of which may want to consider revisiting their CPR procedures and practices.

Source: The New York Times, "Prolonged CPR Holds Benefits, a Study Shows," Roni Caryn Rabin, Sept. 4, 2012

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