A life-threatening cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)-related injury can cause recurrent arrest after return of circulation. Such injuries are difficult to identify during resuscitation, and their contribution to failed resuscitation can be missed given the limitations of conventional CPR. Extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ECPR), increasingly being considered for selected patients with potentially reversible etiology of arrest, may identify previously occult CPR-related injuries by restoring arterial pressure and flow. Herein, we describe two cases of severe CPR-related injuries contributing to recurrent arrest. Each case had ECPR implemented within 60 minutes of the start of CPR. After the presumed cardiac etiology had been addressed with percutaneous coronary intervention, life-threatening cardiovascular injuries with recurrent arrest were noted, and resuscitative thoracotomy was performed under ECPR. One patient survived to hospital discharge.
ECPR may provide an opportunity to identify and correct severe resuscitation-related injuries causing recurrent arrest. Chest compression depth >6 cm, especially in older women, may contribute to these injuries.