Key Takeaways

    • The lifesaving actions of CPR as well as the hospital stay may come with unwanted collateral injuries. These may include chest pain, broken ribs, skin irritation or burns, pressure wounds, blood clots, and sore throat.
    • Chest pain and broken ribs from chest compressions, as well as skin burns or irritation from AED pads, are bothersome but temporary unwanted effects of resuscitation efforts that should improve within weeks.
    • Sore throat occurs after being on the breathing machine, which should improve within days to weeks.
    • Sometimes blood clots or pressure wounds may happen from immobilization while in the hospital and may need treatment even beyond hospital discharge.
My heartbeat is back, but why are there injuries on my body?

Life-saving efforts after cardiac arrest like chest compressions, electrical shocks, and sometimes trauma after unresponsiveness, falls, and hospitalization may also cause some collateral bodily injuries.

Chest pain and broken ribs

Chest compressions during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) can often cause unwanted effects. Your loved one may experience chest pain that may linger for several weeks and slowly improve; they may also have broken ribs that will take several weeks to heal. Clinicians may prescribe stronger pain medications if the pain is not manageable by over-the-counter medications.

Skin burns

If your loved one needed to be shocked (also called “defibrillated”) during cardiac arrest, they may experience burns on the areas where the automatic external defibrillator (AED) pads were placed, usually on the chest and back. These burns range from superficial irritation to deeper burns and with time will slowly improve. If the irritation, however, does not improve with time, they should see their primary care provider for a more thorough examination.


If your loved one had a prolonged hospital stay, they may have developed pressure wounds, also called “bedsores” or “pressure ulcers.” These wounds are formed in pressure areas of the body, and staying in the same position raises the risk of developing them. The medical team of nurses and their aids will change position and turn your loved one on different sides usually every 2 hours to prevent these sores from forming. They will also encourage early movement once it is safe for them to do so. Pressure wounds require daily care, dressing changes, and sometimes the use of a device called “wound vac,” which can assist with the closure of the wound.

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT)

Lack of movement of the body – particularly arms and legs – for a significant time raises the risk of developing blood clots in them. This condition is also known as “deep venous thrombosis” (DVT). The medical team will give a daily blood thinner while your loved one is hospitalized and unable to move much to prevent the formation of these clots. Unfortunately, sometimes people may still develop clots even on this preventative medication. If they develop a DVT, clinicians will start a higher dose of a blood thinner. This will prevent the clot from getting bigger, more clots from developing, and the existing clot from traveling to other sites of the body, like arteries supplying the lung, which causes a dangerous condition called “pulmonary embolism.” The treatment will continue for a few months, so your loved one may return home on a blood thinner, which, if deemed safe by clinicians, may stop eventually.

Sore throat

It is very common to develop a sore throat and raspy voice after having the breathing tube (also called an endotracheal tube or ET tube) removed. The soreness should improve within days to weeks and is caused by the superficial irritation from the breathing tube itself. Sometimes, if your loved one needs prolonged assistance from the breathing machine, the clinicians may recommend a tracheostomy, a surgically created hole in the windpipe (trachea) where they will have a smaller tube connected to the breathing machine. This is done to prevent further complications from the ET tube irritation, such as tightening of the trachea, which can then lead to future breathing problems.

Thank you to our contributors

Samantha Fernandez & Sachin Agarwal

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