Reviews in Clinical Gerontology

Clinical geriatrics

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation in older people – a review

R Lannona1 and ST O'Keeffea1 c1

a1 Department of Geriatric Medicine, Galway University Hospitals, Ireland


Survival to discharge after in-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is about 20% in those aged 65–69 years, declining with advancing age to about 10% in those aged 90 years or more. There are conflicting reports on whether or not advanced age, independent of the severity of acute and chronic illness, is a determinant of outcome. Recognition that the outcome of CPR in hospital patients is often poor has prompted extensive debate regarding the appropriate use of this procedure. In particular, there has been concern about unnecessary CPR in extended-care and hospice settings. Conversely, there has also been evidence that doctors and families may be prone to underestimate the quality of life and likelihood of benefit from CPR in older people and to make resuscitation decisions without considering the preferences of older people themselves. Recent guidelines have attempted to strike a balance between ensuring patient participation whenever possible but without offering illusory choices where CPR is very unlikely to succeed.

(Online publication January 27 2010)


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr S O'Keeffe, Unit 4, Merlin Park Regional Hospital, Galway, Ireland. Email: and