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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lazarus syndrome is the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation.[1] Its occurrence has been noted in medical literature at least 25 times since 1982.[2] Also called Lazarus phenomenon, it takes its name from the biblical story of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.[3]

Occurrences of the syndrome are rare and the causes are not well understood. One theory for the phenomenon is that a chief factor (though not the only one) is the buildup of pressure in the chest as a result of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The relaxation of pressure after resuscitation efforts have ended is thought to allow the heart to expand, triggering the heart's electrical impulses and restarting the heartbeat.[1] Other possible factors are hyperkalaemia or high doses of adrenaline.[3]



One example is a 61-year-old woman from Delaware, USA, who was given "multiple medicines and synchronized shocks", but never regained a pulse. She was declared dead but was discovered in the morgue to be alive and breathing. She sued the medical center where it happened for damages due to physical and neurological problems stemming from the event.[2]

Another case is a 66-year-old man suffering from a suspected abdominal aneurysm. During treatment for this condition, the patient suffered cardiac arrest and received chest compressions and defibrillation shocks for 17 minutes. Vital signs did not return; the patient was declared dead and resuscitation efforts ended. Ten minutes later, the surgeon felt a pulse. The aneurysm was successfully treated and the patient fully recovered with no lasting physical or neurological problems.[1]

A 27-year-old man in the UK went into cardiac arrest after overdosing on heroin and ecstasy. After 25 minutes of resuscitation efforts, the patient was verbally declared dead. About a minute after resuscitation ended, a nurse noticed a rhythm on the heart monitor and resuscitation was resumed. The patient recovered fully.[3]

An 18-year-old woman in Missouri, USA, attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping medication. Resuscitation was attempted, but failed, and she was declared dead. Seven minutes later, her heart started beating and she started breathing on her own again, though she was comatose. The woman regained consciousness 5 days later and was oblivious to what had happened.


The Lazarus Syndrome raises ethical issues for doctors, who must determine when medical death has occurred, resuscitation efforts should end, and post-mortem procedures such as autopsies and organ harvesting may take place.[1] One doctor wrote, "Perhaps it is a supreme hubris on our part to presume that we can reliably distinguish the reversible from the irreversible, or the salvageable from the nonsalvageable."[1]

Medical literature has recommended observation of a patient's vital signs for five to ten minutes after cessation of resuscitation before certifying death.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Ben-David M.D., Bruce; et al. (2001). "Survival After Failed Intraoperative Resuscitation: A Case of "Lazarus Syndrome"". Anesth Analg 92: 690–692. PMID 11226103. Retrieved 2008-10-14.  
  2. ^ a b "Woman Declared Dead, Still Breathing in Morgue". Fox News. 2008-10-07.,2933,433830,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-29.  
  3. ^ a b c d Walker, A.; H. McClelland, J. Brenchley (2001). "The Lazarus phenomenon following recreational drug use". Emerg Med J 18: 74–75. PMID 11310473. Retrieved 2008-10-29.  

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