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Open Access An exploration of UK paramedics’ experiences of cardiopulmonary resuscitation-induced consciousness


Consciousness may occur during cardiopulmonary resuscitation despite the absence of a palpable pulse. This phenomenon, known as CPR-Induced Consciousness (CPR-IC), was first described over three decades ago and there has been an increase in case reports describing it. However, there remains limited evidence in relation to the incidence of CPR-IC and to practitioners’ experiences of it.

A mixed-methods, cross-sectional survey of paramedics who were registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and working in the United Kingdom (UK) at the time of the survey. Participants who had experienced CPR-IC were asked to provide details about the number of episodes, a description of how consciousness was manifested and whether or not it interfered with resuscitation.

293 eligible participants completed the study and 167 (57%) said that they had witnessed CPR-IC. Of those, over 56% reported that they had experienced it on at least two occasions. CPR-IC was deemed to interfere with resuscitation in nearly 50% of first experiences but this fell to around 31% by the third experience. The most common reasons for CPR-IC to interfere with resuscitation were: patient resisting clinical interventions, increased rhythm and pulse checks, distress, confusion and reluctance to perform CPR.

The prevalence of CPR-IC in our study was similar to that in earlier studies; however, unlike the other studies, we did not define what constituted interfering CPR-IC. Our findings suggest that interference may be related as much to the exposure of the clinician to CPR-IC as to any specific characteristic of the phenomenon itself.

Keywords: cardiac arrest; cardiopulmonary resuscitation; consciousness; paramedic

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Wolverhampton ORCID iD:, URL: 2: Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust ORCID iD:, URL: 3: University of Worcester ORCID iD:, URL: 4: Staffordshire University ORCID iD:, URL:

Publication date: March 1, 2021

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