Association between prehospital CPR quality and end-tidal carbon dioxide levels in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

Ryan A. Murphy, Bentley J. Bobrow, Daniel W. Spaite, Chengcheng Hu, Robyn McDannold, Tyler F. Vadeboncoeur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Introduction: International Guidelines recommend measurement of end-tidal carbon dioxide (EtCO 2) to enhance cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) quality and optimize blood flow during CPR. Numerous factors impact EtCO2 (e.g., ventilation, metabolism, cardiac output), yet few clinical studies have correlated CPR quality and EtCO2 during actual out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) resuscitations. The purpose of this study was to describe the association between EtCO2 and CPR quality variables during OHCA. Methods: This is an observational study of prospectively collected CPR quality and capnography data from two EMS agencies participating in a statewide resuscitation quality improvement program. CPR quality and capnography data from adult (≥18 years) cardiac resuscitation attempts (10/2008-06/2013) were collected and analyzed on a minute-by-minute basis using RescueNet™ Code Review. Linear mixed effect models were used to evaluate the association between (log-transformed) EtCO2 level and CPR variables: chest compression (CC) depth, CC rate, CC release velocity (CCRV), ventilation rate. Results: Among the 1217 adult OHCA cases of presumed cardiac etiology, 925 (76.0%) had a monitor-defibrillator file with CPR quality data, of which 296 (32.0%) cases had >1 minute of capnography data during CPR. After capnography quality review, 66 of these cases (22.3%) were excluded due to uninterpretable capnography, resulting in a final study sample of 230 subjects (mean age 68 years; 69.1% male), with a total of 1581 minutes of data. After adjustment for other CPR variables, a 10 mm increase in CC depth was associated with a 4.0% increase in EtCO2 (p < 0.0001), a 10 compression/minute increase in CC rate with a 1.7% increase in EtCO2 (p = 0.02), a 10 mm/second increase in CCRV with a 2.8% increase in EtCO2 (p = 0.03), and a 10 breath/minute increase in ventilation rate with a 17.4% decrease in EtCO2 (p < 0.0001). Conclusion: When controlling for known CPR quality variables, increases in CC depth, CC rate and CCRV were each associated with a statistically significant but clinically modest increase in EtCO 2. Given the small effect sizes, the clinical utility of using EtCO2 to guide CPR performance is unclear. Further research is needed to determine the practicality and impact of using real-time EtCO2 to guide CPR delivery in the prehospital environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-377
Number of pages9
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 3 2016


  • capnography
  • cardiac output
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • end-tidal carbon dioxide
  • out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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