Lazarus syndrome, (the Lazarus heart) also known as autoresuscitation after failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is the spontaneous return of a normal cardiac rhythm after failed attempts at resuscitation. Its occurrence has been noted in medical literature at least 38 times since 1982. It takes its name from Lazarus who, as described in the New Testament, was raised from the dead by Jesus.
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Occurrences of the syndrome are extremely rare, and the causes are not well understood. One hypothesis 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. Other possible factors are hyperkalemia or high doses of epinephrine.
- A 27-year-old man in the UK collapsed after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. Paramedics gave him an injection, and he recovered enough to walk to the ambulance. He went into cardiac arrest in transit. 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.
- A 66-year-old man suffering from a suspected abdominal aneurysm suffered cardiac arrest and received chest compressions and defibrillation shocks for 17 minutes during treatment for his condition. 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.
- According to a 2002 article in the journal Forensic Science International, a 65-year-old prelingually deaf Japanese man was found unconscious in the foster home he lived in. CPR was attempted on the scene by home staff, emergency medical personnel and also in the emergency department of the hospital and included appropriate medications and defibrillation. He was declared dead after attempted resuscitation. However, a policeman found the person moving in the mortuary after 20 minutes. The patient survived for 4 more days.
- Judith Johnson, 61, went into cardiac arrest at Beebe Medical Center in Lewes, Delaware, United States, in May 2007. She was given "multiple medicines and synchronized shocks", but never regained a pulse. She was declared dead at 8:34 p.m. but was later discovered 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.
- A 45-year-old woman in Colombia was pronounced dead, as there were no vital signs showing she was alive. Later, a funeral worker noticed the woman moving and alerted his co-worker that the woman should go back to the hospital.
- A 65-year-old man in Malaysia came back to life two-and-a-half hours after doctors at Seberang Jaya Hospital, Penang, pronounced him dead. He died three weeks later.
- Anthony Yahle, 37, in Bellbrook, Ohio, USA, was breathing abnormally at 4 a.m. on 5 August 2013, and could not be woken. After finding that Yahle had no pulse, first responders administered CPR and were able to retrieve a stable-enough heartbeat to transport him to the emergency room. Later that afternoon, he again suffered cardiac arrest for 45 minutes at Kettering Medical Center and was pronounced dead after all efforts to resuscitate him failed. When his son arrived at the hospital to visit his supposed-to-be deceased father, he noticed a heartbeat on the monitor that was still attached to his father. Resuscitation efforts were resumed, and Yahle was successfully revived.
- Walter Williams, 78, from Lexington, Mississippi, United States, was at home when his hospice nurse called a coroner who arrived and declared him dead at 9 p.m. on 26 February 2014. Once at a funeral home, he was found to be moving, possibly resuscitated by a defibrillator implanted in his chest. The next day he was well enough to be talking with family, but died fifteen days later.
- Velma Thomas, 59, of West Virginia, USA holds the record time for recovering from clinical death. In May 2008, Thomas went into cardiac arrest at her home. Medics were able to establish a faint pulse after eight minutes of CPR. Her heart stopped twice after arriving at the hospital and she was placed on life support. Doctors attempted to lower her body temperature to prevent additional brain injury. She was declared clinically dead for 17 hours after doctors failed to detect brain activity. Her son, Tim Thomas, stated that "her skin had already started hardening, her hands and toes were curling up, they were already drawn". She was taken off life support and funeral arrangements were in progress. However, ten minutes after being taken off life support, she revived and recovered.
The Lazarus phenomenon raises ethical issues for physicians, who must determine when medical death has occurred, resuscitation efforts should end, and postmortem procedures such as autopsies and organ harvesting may take place.
- Hornby K, Hornby L, Shemie SD (May 2010). "A systematic review of autoresuscitation after cardiac arrest". Crit. Care Med. 39 (5): 1246–53. doi:10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181d8caaa. PMID 20228683.
- Ben-David M.D., Bruce; et al. (2001). "Survival After Failed Intraoperative Resuscitation: A Case of "Lazarus Syndrome"". Anesthesia & Analgesia. 92 (3): 690–692. doi:10.1213/00000539-200103000-00027. PMID 11226103.
- Adhiyaman, Vedamurthy; Adhiyaman, Sonja; Sundaram, Radha (2007). "The Lazarus phenomenon". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 100 (12): 552–7. doi:10.1258/jrsm.100.12.552. PMC 2121643. PMID 18065707.
- "Woman Declared Dead, Still Breathing in Morgue". Fox News. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Walker, A.; H. McClelland; J. Brenchley (2001). "The Lazarus Documentary following recreational drug use". Emerg Med J. 18 (1): 74–75. doi:10.1136/emj.18.1.74. PMC 1725503. PMID 11310473. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Maeda, H; Fujita, M. Q.; Zhu, B. L.; Yukioka, H; Shindo, M; Quan, L; Ishida, K (2002). "Death following spontaneous recovery from cardiopulmonary arrest in a hospital mortuary: 'Lazarus phenomenon' in a case of alleged medical negligence". Forensic Science International. 127 (1–2): 82–7. doi:10.1016/s0379-0738(02)00107-x. PMID 12098530.
- "Embalmer finds 'dead' woman really alive". Bogota: NBC News. 17 February 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Salazar, Hernando. "¿Colombiana experimentó Síndrome de Lázaro?". BBC Online (in Spanish). Retrieved 26 December 2010.
- Vinesh, Derrick (26 April 2011). "Resurrection man dies". The Star Online. Archived from the original on 5 January 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
- Lupkin, Sydney (22 August 2013). "Ohio Man Declared Dead Comes Back to Life". Retrieved 4 January 2014.
- McLaughlin, Eliott (28 February 2014). "Dead Mississippi man begins breathing in embalming room, coroner says". CNN. Retrieved 28 February 2014.
- Ford, Dana (13 March 2014). "Mississippi man who awoke in body bag dies two weeks later". CNN. Retrieved 13 March 2014.
- Elsworth, Catherine (26 May 2008). "Woman comes back to life after being dead for 17 hours". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- "Woman Came Back From the Dead After 17 Hours with No Measurable Brain Waves". Neatorama. 27 May 2008. Retrieved 9 June 2019.