Resuscitation Council (UK)

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Statement on Cough CPR

The BLS/AED Subcommittee has received a number of enquiries from people  who have been informed about "cough CPR" and "How to survive a heart attack when alone". Advice has been put on the Internet that someone who thinks he or she is suffering a heart attack should repeatedly cough and go at once to a hospital, by car if necessary.

This advice is based (very loosely) on published case reports of people being able to maintain some sort of cardiac output during cardiac arrest by vigorous coughing - so-called "cough CPR". The scenario has usually been of a patient developing ventricular fibrillation whilst being monitored, often whilst undergoing cardiac catheterisation. The patient has been encouraged to cough and a measurable circulation has been recorded. This anecdotal evidence supports the theory that chest compressions during CPR are successful because they increase intrathoracic pressure and result in a flow of blood. The collapsed veins and patent arteries at the thoracic inlet result in this flow being in a forward direction. Coughing produces the same effect.

The BLS/AED Subcommittee knows of no evidence that, even if a lone patient knew that cardiac arrest had occurred, he or she would be able to maintain sufficient circulation to allow activity, let alone driving to the hospital.   


April 2002; updated: December 2005; reviewed: August 2010, August 2015


  1. Criley JM, Blaufuss JH, Kissel GL. Cough-induced cardiac compression: self-administered form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation. JAMA. 1976;236:1246-1250.
  2. Miller B, Cohen A, Serio A, Bettock D. Hemodynamics of cough cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a patient with sustained torsades de pointes/ventricular flutter. J Emerg Med. 1994;12:627-632.
  3. Petelenz T, Iwinski J, Chelbowczyx J, Czyx Z, Flak Z, Fiutowski L, Zaorski K, Petelenz T, Zeman S. Self-administered cough cardiopulmonary resuscitation (c-CPR) in patients threatened by MAS events of cardiovascular origin. Wiad Lek. 1998;51:326-336.
  4. Saba SE, David SW. Sustained consciousness during ventricular fibrillation: case report of cough cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Cathet Cardiovasc Diagn. 1996;37:47-48.


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