Lazarus syndrome or autoresuscitation after failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation is the spontaneous return of circulation after failed attempts at resuscitation. Its occurrence has been noted in medical literature at least 25 times since 1982. Also called Lazarus phenomenon, it takes its name from Lazarus who, according to the New Testament, was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Occurrences of the syndrome are extremely 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. Other possible factors are hyperkalemia or high doses of epinephrine.
- A 61-year-old woman from Delaware, USA 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.
- A 66-year-old man suffering from a suspected abdominal aneurysm who, during treatment for this condition, 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.
- A 27 year-old man in the UK went into cardiac arrest after overdosing on heroin and cocaine. 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 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.
- A 49 year-old woman came back to life at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after being dead for 45 minutes.
The Lazarus Syndrome raises ethical issues for physicians, 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. 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."
Medical literature has recommended observation of a patient's vital signs for five to ten minutes after cessation of resuscitation before certifying death.
See also 
- Hornby K, Hornby L, Shemie SD (May 2010). "A systematic review of autoresuscitation after cardiac arrest". Crit. Care Med. 38 (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"". Anesth Analg 92 (3): 690–692. doi:10.1213/00000539-200103000-00027. PMID 11226103. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
- "Woman Declared Dead, Still Breathing in Morgue". Fox News. 2008-10-07. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
- Walker, A.; H. McClelland, J. Brenchley (2001). "The Lazarus phenomenon following recreational drug use". Emerg Med J 18 (1): 74–75. doi:10.1136/emj.18.1.74. PMC 1725503. PMID 11310473. Retrieved 2008-10-29.
- http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20100219/twl-dead-woman-comes-back-to-life-41f21e0.html.[dead link] Retrieved 19 Feb 2010
- Salazar, Hernando. "¿Colombiana experimentó Síndrome de Lázaro?". BBC Online (in Spanish). Retrieved 26 December 2010.
- Resurrection man dies, The Star, 26 Apr 2011
- McKim, Claire. "Dead' grandmother comes back to life after 45 minutes when grieving husband tells heart attack victim 'I love you". Daily Mail (London).