10 Completely Unrealistic Moments in Television ERs

CPR Survival Rates
CPR has saved many lives through the years, but unfortunately, it’s not as successful in the real world as it is on TV. © windcatcher/iStockphoto

If you were to believe what you see on your favorite medical drama, most patients requiring cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) survive after being resuscitated. Additionally, those patients are primarily young, otherwise healthy people who have been shot, for instance, or injured in a car accident [sources: Stix, Duke Medicine].

CPR has been an essential emergency medical treatment since its introduction in 1960, so it's no surprise how prominently it's featured on TV medical shows. Fifty years after the debut of CPR, more than 14 million people worldwide undergo training on the lifesaving technique annually [source: AHA]. But if you base your CPR knowledge on what you see on TV — like 70 to 92 percent of U.S. seniors do — you're in for a surprise. In reality, most of the patients who need CPR are elderly or have chronic conditions such as heart disease. The majority either won't survive the resuscitation, will die shortly after resuscitation, or will never recover from the brain damage resulting from oxygen deprivation related to cardiac arrest [source: Duke Medicine]. While more than 75 percent of resuscitated TV patients immediately go home and on with their lives, the actual survival rates fall between 2 and 40 percent if the CPR's performed outside of a hospital, and between 6.5 and 15 percent when the CPR's performed inside a hospital [source: Stix].