What Is the Effect of Excessive Ventilation?

As with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to perform resuscitation.

In fact, up until relatively recently, medical professionals and experts alike believed that oxygenating a patient experiencing cardiac arrest was the most fundamental component of resuscitation efforts.

It’s since been discovered, however, that too much ventilation can actually have a negative impact on survival rates.

This is why cardiac massage is now emphasized much more than ventilation.

Think about it.

The average person breathes at a rate of approximately 12 to 16 times per minute.


Yet, for some reason, performing CPR used to involve ventilation at a much faster rate. In fact, some studies indicate that cardiac arrests that were treated in-hospital were being addressed with much higher ventilation rates than what was necessary.

This practice, known as excessive ventilation or hyperventilation, can lead to a number of serious complications beyond the initial cardiac event that warranted the resuscitation effort in the first place.

Specifically, excessive ventilation can result in gastric inflation.

It’s inevitable that some air will enter the stomach during CPR, unless the patient has been intubated with an endotracheal tube.

Too much gastric inflation, however, can lead to the expulsion of gastric contents.

When this occurs the chances of the patient aspirating into the lungs increases dramatically, creating another serious medical concern.

Excessive ventilation can also cause splinting of the patient’s diaphragm, which can make it much more difficult to continue ventilation and also impede the output of the heart.

Lastly, excessive ventilation can alter the patient’s blood chemistry, potentially resulting in adverse effects on the brain.

To address these serious concerns, the AHA has modified its guidelines to prioritize the process of chest compressions over ventilations.

In fact, today the focus remains on delivering high-quality chest compressions as the foundation of resuscitation.

According to the latest AHA Guidelines for CPR and ECC, the recommended chest compression to ventilation ratio has been updated to read as follows:

It is reasonable for rescuers trained in CPR using chest compressions and ventilation (rescue breaths) to provide a compression-to-ventilation ratio of 30:2 for adults in cardiac arrest.

Of course, the most effective way to master the practice of CPR and basic life support is to take appropriate coursework.

For instance, our online CPR, BLS, ACLS and PALS courses all feature study material that has been developed by experienced medical professionals and is in line with the latest AHA guidelines.

Students of our courses will learn precisely how to resuscitate a patient without over ventilating.

This knowledge can dramatically improve the likelihood of a positive outcome for a patient suffering cardiac arrest.

For more information on our available courses and why ProMed is considered one of the premier providers of online medical certification, click below.