When Should You Stop CPR? Understanding the Guidelines

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a vital life-saving technique used to sustain blood circulation and provide oxygen to the brain and other vital organs during a cardiac arrest or respiratory failure. Performing CPR immediately and effectively can significantly increase the chances of survival for someone in need. However, it is important to understand when to continue CPR and when it may be appropriate to stop. In this article, we will discuss the guidelines and considerations for stopping CPR, as recommended by MyCPR NOW.

Guidelines for Stopping CPR:

1. Presence of Advanced Medical Help: The primary goal of CPR is to maintain blood flow and oxygenation until advanced medical help arrives. If professional medical responders, such as emergency medical services (EMS), arrive at the scene and take over resuscitation efforts, you should stop CPR and allow them to take over. They are trained to provide advanced life support and have the necessary equipment to continue resuscitation efforts.

2. Return of Spontaneous Circulation (ROSC): ROSC refers to the return of a palpable pulse and signs of effective circulation. If, during CPR, the person shows signs of ROSC, such as responsive movements, breathing, or a palpable pulse, you should stop CPR and monitor the person's vital signs. However, it is essential to remain vigilant and be prepared to resume CPR if their condition deteriorates.

3. Fatigue or Physical Exhaustion: Performing CPR can be physically demanding, especially if the resuscitation efforts are prolonged. It is important to recognize signs of fatigue or physical exhaustion in yourself or others involved in the resuscitation. If you are unable to continue providing effective chest compressions and rescue breaths due to fatigue, it may be appropriate to stop CPR and allow someone else to take over.

4. Obvious Signs of Death: In certain situations, there may be obvious signs that resuscitation efforts will not be successful. These signs include rigor mortis (stiffening of the body), livor mortis (pooling of blood in the lower parts of the body), or obvious signs of irreversible injury. In such cases, CPR is unlikely to be effective, and it may be appropriate to stop resuscitation efforts.

5. Determination by Medical Professionals: In some instances, medical professionals may determine that continuing CPR is futile or not in the best interest of the person. This decision may be based on factors such as the person's medical history, the underlying cause of the cardiac arrest, or the presence of severe injuries that are not compatible with survival. It is important to respect and follow the guidance of medical professionals in such situations.

Considerations for Stopping CPR:

While the guidelines provide a general framework for stopping CPR, it is important to consider individual factors and the context of each situation. Here are some additional considerations:

1. Duration of CPR: The duration of CPR plays a role in determining the likelihood of successful resuscitation. If CPR has been performed for an extended period without signs of improvement or ROSC, the chances of a positive outcome decrease. However, it is essential to continue CPR until advanced medical help arrives, even if the duration is prolonged.

2. Personal Safety: Your safety and the safety of others involved in the resuscitation should always be a priority. If the environment becomes unsafe due to factors such as fire, explosion, or violence, it may be necessary to stop CPR and evacuate the area.

3. Family Wishes and Advance Directives: It is important to consider the wishes of the person's family and any advance directives they may have provided. If there are specific instructions regarding resuscitation efforts, such as a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order, these should be followed accordingly.


Knowing when to stop CPR is a crucial aspect of providing effective and compassionate care. The guidelines and considerations mentioned above can help guide your decision-making process. However, it is important to remember that every situation is unique, and the final decision to stop CPR should be based on a combination of medical guidance, individual circumstances, and the best interests of the person receiving care. MyCPR NOW provides comprehensive CPR training that covers the necessary skills and knowledge to perform CPR effectively and make informed decisions in emergency situations.

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