CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Real CPR looks like real CPR; Movie CPR looks like somebody just kinda, like, heaving against somebody's chest going like, 'Live, dammit! Live!' and just like, pounding his fist against their chest..."

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency first aid protocol for an unconscious person on whom both breathing and pulse cannot be detected. For some very basic RL information on CPR, see the Useful Notes subpage.

In TV-land, it's:

  • Clean (doesn't take into account hygiene, oral-vector diseases, or any precautions against these.)
  • Pretty (it's heroic to know how to do CPR; unless the show is a Sitcom or an Anime series, hold the Ho Yay! or anxiety for the perception of same. It also gives a reason for a male character to undo a female one's blouse- or vice versa)
  • Reliable (unless the story calls for the character to be Killed Off for Real or Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, he'll be back in action, no muss, no fuss. If the character is destined to die, his rescuers will give up the situation as hopeless within just a few minutes.) In fact, a 1996 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that CPR success rates in television shows was 75%.
  • R can also be for "Romantic," since the resuscitated character, if of the opposite gender, will often react to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by kissing their rescuer passionately. This is as opposed to the more realistic reaction of throwing up, groaning and feeling like hell.

In reality, it isn't clean, pretty, reliable or romantic. It's an emergency procedure consisting of external cardiac massage and artificial respiration, the first treatment for a person who has collapsed, has no pulse, and has stopped breathing. It's not fast either - the purpose is to buy time until advanced help is available by circulating blood and preventing brain damage from lack of oxygen. More importantly, you're not supposed to give up after a minute or two just because they haven't started breathing on their own; rather, you should keep going until advanced help gets there.

CPR is Newer Than They Think; it was only developed in 1957, and public education on it began in the 1960s. This is after nearly 200 years of serious attempts to revive the dying. Prior to that, resuscitation involved the Holger Nielsen method (ca. 1900), and the Silvester method (late 1800s) before that, which were only really effective on a victim whose heart was still beating.

The defibrillator is older than CPR, invented in 1947 after half a century of animal testing, but that's another trope.

For an equally Clean, Pretty, and Reliable healing technique, see Psychic Surgery.

See also Worst Aid.

Examples of CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable include:


  • Sexy CPR. On the other hand, her technique isn't so bad...
  • Completely averted with the Citizen CPR campaign in Ireland. Understandable, as it's a Public Service Announcement. The statistics quoted about death due to cardiac arrest don't apply elsewhere, but the principle is sound and worth a watch.
  • The victim in this case not only looks good for being cardiac arrest, he looks good for being worked over by Vinnie Jones.

Anime and Manga

  • CPR is performed on a drowned girl in the first episode of My-HiME, after some brief awkwardness, but no one thinks to procure proper life support in the event she doesn't recover on her own. Naturally she does, spitting up some token water in the process,
  • The first episode of FLCL. Played for laughs, though.
  • Vision of Escaflowne - Millerna and Van very much perform the Kiss of Life version on Hitomi. Though it's more realistic in some respects - Hitomi doesn't quite vomit, but she comes close to coughing her guts out and looks half dead for a few minutes.
  • Averted in Monster: It's obviously a wasted, desperate effort and the dude obviously stays dead.
  • Spoofed in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu. After fishing Sousuke out of the school's pool, Tesse insists on giving him CPR. Sure, that makes sense—Except for one thing: he's already breathing. Of course, seeing as Tesse's mostly just trying to take advantage of the situation for some good ol' lip-locking, Kaname's irritated attempts to point this out don't deter her very much.
    • Prior to this, fun is had from Sousuke's complete failure to differentiate kissing from CPR.
  • One Piece: Eiichiro Oda seems to like showing off livesaving skills. CPR has been shown in two instances (on Luffy in the Arlong arc, and on Usopp in the Skypiea arc, the latter more Played for Laughs), and implied in two more (on Dalton in the Drum Island arc; on Luffy and Robin after the battle with Aokiji following the Davy Back Fight).
    • At the time this was entirely a straight play, as it never shows mouth-to-mouth with it. But this has been Vindicated by History: the arc with Luffy receiving CPR was in 1998 in the manga, a full decade before mouth-to-mouth was removed from CPR recommendations in real life. Still unusually effective, though.
    • A much more straight play: Chopper pounded on the chest of one of Eneru's enforcers after he drowned in a swamp cloud to resuscitate him.
  • In chapter 1/episode 1 of Nagasarete Airantou Suzu administers the Kiss of Life to a half-drowned Ikuto, nearly killing him in the process (inflating him like a balloon, whereupon he flies in a circle before landing back where he started).
  • When Haru is unconcious after his fight with Lance (in Rave Master) the older Musica proposes artificial respiration to try and revive him. Elie volunteers and is just about to put her lips on his when he wakes up. Haru greets her cheerfully. He gets slugged.
  • Slayers has a particularly over-the-top example when Sylphiel is trying to revive Lina. After a few whacks on the chest, a couple of chest compressions, and one breath, she sighs in relief that Lina no longer looks dead... then goes back to casting a long-winded healing spell.
    • To be fair, that's the in-setting magical equivalent of getting medical care after receiving CPR.
  • At least in the manga, Ranma from Ranma ½ is shown to do a variation of this to Miss Hinako (who is shown to comically, as in like a fountain, vomit up water) and implied to do so to Akane a few times.
  • In one of the last episodes of Wolf's Rain, Hubb and Cheza perform CPR on Quent when he starts having strange breathing spasms. It's bad enough that they're doing CPR when he clearly has a pulse and respiration, but to make matters worse Hubb speculates that the spasms might be due to internal bleeding or shock from dehydration, neither of which CPR would help with—in fact, it would most likely only exacerbate the former!
  • Episode 9 of Angel Beats! shows us some of Otonashi's back story, which reveals several more hours worth of memories before his death, which mostly involve him administering basic medical aid to the survivors of the subway train crash he was in this includes an instance of CPR which is a lot more realistic than usual. It's dirty, exhausting and doesn't work, also it sticks to the rule of only giving up if you become too exhausted Otonashi had to eventually, it isn't clear how long he kept it up but a rescue attempt was several days away - what with them being caved in - and Otonashi himself was suffering from the injuries that would eventually kill him just before said rescuers showed up.
  • The Sukisho anime has a particularly Egregious example in episode 7.
  • As does Kannazuki no Miko in episode 1. After catching Himeko from a fall (how this would have stopped her heart is not explained), Chikane rips open her shirt, pauses to fondle one breast, and then does two chest compressions. Himeko promptly moans, demonstrating that she's revived.
    • It's worth noting that the fall wouldn't have stopped her heart or breathing, but the giant mecha fist might have as it tore through her dorm room window to grab/strike her.
  • Subverted in The Big O with this quote:

Roger: You could've come up with a gentler way to bring me around, you know. Like, mouth to mouth, or something?
Dorothy: Not with the displacement capacity of my air tank. You're such a louse, Roger Smith.
Roger: Heh, you're definitely our Dorothy.

  • Episode 9 of Yosuga no Sora.
  • Guts performs CPR on a drowned Casca at one point in Berserk. Curious enough where he learned to do that in the Dung Ages, but it resuscitates her after a few repetitions all the same.
  • Lampshaded in Excel Saga when the municipal employees are unwittingly sent to locate the ACROSS base: Iwata goes through all the proper steps in administering CPR in a bid to get to kiss the unconscious Matsuya, including calling out for someone to retrieve a medical professional, despite the fact that they are stranded in Fukuoka's sewers without another living soul in earshot. She recovers before their lips make contact. Played dead straight when Iwata is later forced to resuscitate his male teammates with CPR.
  • Rahzel performed CPR on Rayborn in one chapter of Dazzle after his fake suicide attempt backfires. Perhaps more realistic because he passes out afterwards, but that's cancelled out by Rahzel's decision not to take him to a hospital because she thought he'd be embarrassed to wake up surrounded by doctors and his family.
  • In Star Driver Wako preforms CPR on Takuto after finding him washed up on the shore. She does not attempt to get the water out or look for gross blockage (seaweed etc...) that can be pulled out. Later the characters discuss the romantic implications.
  • After an encounter with a lake demon in Inuyasha leaves Sango unconscious, Miroku decides that he needs to resuscitate her - only to be left protesting his innocence after Sango regains consciousness to find his face inches from hers and comes to the predictable conclusion, with the predictable result.
  • A variation in Life. Miki had fainted so Ayumu attempted to revive her by giving her water. She couldn't do it though, so she instead drank some water and swapped it with her. Despite how gross that sounds, it didn't look as bad as it seems.
  • Averted in the Manga IO : Its one of the few correct depictions of CPR in manga. Even the translator comments on it.
  • In the manga of Air Gear, Agito is somehow able to perform this with a bamboo stick. Really. And it works, no other life support necessary!
  • In the second volume of Jyu-Oh-Sei, Thor, after fighting the Top, is wounded so severely that his heart stops. Third and Tiz preform CPR on him pretty accurately, but what really takes the cake for being over the top is when Third starts slapping Thor; what's worse is that it alone is what actually revives him!

Comic Books

  • In an arc of The Avengers called "Red Zone", Captain America is exposed to a contagious evil bacteria and stops breathing. Saying, "Sorry Tony... but Captain America's more important than you", Iron Man immediately takes off his helmet and starts mouth-to-mouth. (With dramatic lighting and close-ups!) The "CPR revives people by itself" aspect is theoretically averted, as his goal is to keep Cap alive until he can be rescued, but ultimately used straight as, minutes later, Iron Man is passed out and Cap is weak and disoriented, but on his feet. Must be the Super Soldier Serum.
  • In the first volume of Runaways Gert uses CPR on Chase after he's been submerged in water and stops breathing. He feels pretty crappy immediately afterwards, but recovers pretty quickly.
  • In an X-Files comic, Scully performs CPR on a man in cardiac arrest. In a minor subversion, the comic actually points out the need to break the ribs to properly massage the heart, but just CPR is still enough to stabilize him.


  • In Undocumented Features, Corwin receives an electrical shock, and it falls to Utena to save him with CPR. However, what saves his life is not CPR, but the Power of Dios.


  • Nowhere - A girl pulls a drowning boy from a pool and breathes into his mouth once before he lives again.
  • Used in the first Jurassic Park, after Tim was electrocuted by the fence Dr. Grant spent a few moments trying to bring him back, which works so well Tim finished his last sentence. Though they did make some token gestures indicating that he was not completely fine, such as burnt hands, bleeding ears and a limp for the rest of the movie.
  • The Abyss: While the technique does succeed in reviving an otherwise deceased person, it's neither clean nor pretty, and it goes on for several minutes, rather than less than one. Truth is, while it's still not a completely realistic depiction, it's still several steps ahead of most.
  • Although Vesper still dies in Casino Royale, it still counts as (a) Bond gives up less than a minute into administration, and (b) his technique doesn't focus so much on restoring circulation as copping one last feel.
  • In the recent Nancy Drew movie, Nancy performs CPR on someone who is pretending to choke.
  • Heavily, heavily averted in The Orphanage - the woman being resuscitated didn't make it, and brief glimpse to her face shows that her entire lower jaw was horribly dislocated by the car that hit her, showing that the guy giving CPR had really strong stomach, though being a trained doctor probably helped.
  • Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country has Dr. McCoy attempting to revive a Klingon who has been shot in the chest. His heart isn't beating, so McCoy tries CPR for a few seconds and then gives him what may be the now-outdated "precordial thump", which brings him back to life long enough to utter appropriate final words. However, in some rare cases, a physical jolt to the heart like that can indeed take it out of fibrillation. SF Debris refers to this as Cardio Plot Resuscitation as it revives the patient long enough to move the plot forward.
  • In Spider-Man, a lab assistant begins CPR after Norman's heart stops. Of course, he's giving him sideways chest compressions from a standing position and it only takes TWO to start Norman's heart again.
    • Of course, Norman had just been doused with a mutagen which could have had some hand in restarting his heart.
      • In the third movie after Harry is injured, Peter attempts the hands only method for a few seconds before giving up and taking Harry to the hospital. Can be justified to a certain extent in that Peter probably didn't know what he was doing and figured it would just be simpler to get Harry in the hands of a professional as soon as possible.
  • Played straight in The Haunting in Connecticut. Of course, since the receiver of the CPR was possessed by a spirit at the time, and was only brought back after said spirit left his body, this may be justified.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, after Michaelangelo rescues Yoshi from the burning house, Leonardo attempts CPR on Yoshi. During this, Mitsu clams he's 'casting an evil spell', but April corrects her that 'he's helping'.
  • During the end of the movie Fearless, Laura Klein (played by Isabella Rossellini) gives CPR to his husband Max Klein (played by Jeff Bridges) after eating a strawberry. During this, we see flashbacks of Max's experinence in the past plane crash while at the same time, during CPR, we see a bit of drool from her mouth when she's desperately is trying to revive him.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - Acts as a first kiss between the two teen lovebirds
  • In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang Harry gives Perry very bad CPR after he is shot through the chest, and only gets a mouthful of blood for his trouble. Probably justified, as Harry is clearly delirious due to his own chest wound.]]
  • |Mission Impossible III has Ethan receiving CPR from his nurse wife after electrocuting himself. Complete with dramatic punching of the chest!
  • Averted in Terminator Salvation, where John Connor attempts to revive the dead Marcus through two Precordial Thumps before tearing two wires out of the wall and giving him an improvised defibrillation.
  • Appears in An Officer and a Gentleman, when Sgt. Foley has to administer CPR on one of the recruits after an accident with a crash landing simulator.
  • In a variant, The Twelve Chairs (set shortly after the Russian Revolution) uses the older Schafer method, with the resuscitated woman lying on her belly and the rescuer kneading her lower back. It's still this trope in the Pretty sense, as they were actually fooling around and only adopted this ruse of respiratory distress because there was no time for her to re-tie her underthings when her husband came home early.
  • Totally averted in Groundhog Day. Phil spends several of his loops trying to save a homeless bum who dies in an alley. He spends hours doing CPR on him. He even takes him to the hospital before he even has problems. He's never ever able to save the guy. The nurse in the last attempt suggests he just died of old age, and Phil realizes he simply cannot save him no matter how hard he tries.
  • Played for laughs in The Sandlot where Squints intentionally jumps into the deep end of the pool so that he'll be rescued by his crush the life guard. After a few tries of CPR, Squints pulls the life guard into a big kiss.
  • It's played for laughs in Thor, where after accidentally running Thor over with a car and upon seeing Thor (not to mention he was conscious and breathing fine on his own), Darcy was quick to point out she knows CPR to help him.
    • In The Avengers, Tony Stark/Film/IronMan was happy that he woke up before this happened to him.

Please tell me nobody kissed me.

  • Largely averted in the initial scene of Bringing Out The Dead where Nicolas Cage's character internally admits that the old man he's performing CPR on is unlikely to survive, but he continues doing CPR anyhow, even when the man has gone long enough without oxygen to have started suffering major brain damage. He succeeds in reviving the man nonetheless, but the process is neither clean nor pretty, and there's every indication that the old man is less than cogent afterwards.
  • In Like Flint. After shocking a guard's heart back into beating, Flint does some mild chest compression on him and he revives.
  • Averted in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows where Watson's chest compressions wasn't unable to revive Holmes. Instead, he had to use adrenaline. After Holmes is revived, he mentions his chest really hurts. It also averts Magical Defibrillator as adrenaline is what is actually used to restart a heart that has completely stopped.


  • Subverted in Angels & Demons. When the second preferiti is found, the main characters attempt to give CPR in a realistic fashion, with one providing breath and the other getting ready to do compressions. However, the attempt is anything but clean; the preferiti has two holes in his lungs, causing blood to spray out and into the face of the poor guy standing over him. Needless to say, he doesn't survive.
    • It is also tried again unsuccessfully, with the final kidnapped victim who was drowned in a fountain.
  • Averted in Earthly Delights by Kerry Greenwood. When the heroine finds a junkie who overdosed on her grate and gave her CPR, she placed plastic wrap over the junkie's mouth (and put a fairly large hole in it for the air) so she wouldn't catch anything.
  • Averted in Johnny and The Bomb as Yo-less briefly considers performing CPR on Mrs. Tachyon but the gang decides to just call an ambulance instead for hygiene reasons.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files novel Storm Front, Morgan having rescued Harry from the burning building, Harry comes to finding him performing CPR. Neither of them is terribly happy about it, but it worked.
    • Later, in Small Favor, Dresden is on the receiving end of CPR from Murphy. Averted when he vomits on her.

Dresden: Guess we're even.
Murphy: Like hell we are. I only spat fruit punch in your mouth.

  • Done in Thieves Like Us, when the Big Bad accidentally shoots the ancient mummy-like leader of an ancient cult then attempts to perform CPR to revive him. It doesn't work and there is mention that his nose is pulled off when she grips it (yes, that's how old he is). Possibly justified in that she was probably panicked having just mortally injured the ancient and greatly beloved leader of an extremely pissed cult who was surrounding her and proceeded to kill her when their leader dies.
  • Averted in the Mercedes Lackey book Sacred Ground. A housewife has been cursed by malevolent spirits, who cause lightning to hit her child. She has her other child call 911 and starts both CPR and chest-pumps with counts for each, and keeps doing this until the paramedics arrive. He's dead.
  • Subverted (or possibly averted) in Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox: after a character collapses from magically-induced cardiac arrest, instead of doing CPR, Artemis simply grabs a (conveniently nearby) defibrillator and revives him with that.
  • Averted in The Ruins. Jeff preforms CPR on Amy for hours before being forced to give up due to exhaustion.
  • Subverted a couple of times in Discworld. Usually the mere threat of the "Kiss of Life" (especially from Nobby) is enough to revive the patient. Of course, most of them haven't really suffered cardiac arrest, they've just fainted.
  • In Animorphs book 17, The Underground, Arnold Schwarzenegger gives George Edelman mouth-to-mouth after rescuing him from drowning in a river (where the Animorphs, as birds, had carried George after he tried to jump out of a building).
    • Later averted in book 19, in which Cassie receives CPR and the first thing she does when recovering conscience is vomit over herself. She spends a while with numb extremities as well.
  • In the YA book My Angelica, there's a scene in Sage's story where Angelica performs CPR on -the number keeps changing- Bears...after he passes out from choking on raccoon meat. Her Unlucky Childhood Friend tries to tell her that A; the way she wrote it wasn't how it's normally done and the man revived too fast, and B; it's the Heimlich Maneuver she wants, not CPR. She doesn't listen.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Shadow, Bean is the first of the children to realize that Bonzo Madrid is dead after the fight with Ender when he sees the medical staff performing CPR on him. For the record, Bean is 6, but has been genetically-engineered to be a savant.
  • In Catching Fire Finnick performs CPR on Peeta (whose heart has stopped) for several minutes before he coughs and sputters to life. After being thrown backward by a force field. Yeah.
  • Averted in Son of the Black Sword when the main character is rescued from having fallen in a river. He wakes feeling horrible, despite his Healing Factor, and the woman who gave him "kiss of life" explains it, she mentions it's inconsistent. Being from a world where bodies of water larger than a tub are considered the domain of evil, and only the lowest of the low would ever know how to swim, he's mystified and suspects "witchcraft" more than any implications from her having given him mouth to mouth.

Live Action TV

  • Every Medical Drama.
    • One aversion was in an episode of ER, where a drunk and passed out partygoer vomits into the mouth of Noah Wylie's character when he tries to administer CPR.
    • Also, a notable early episode had Noah Wyle's character giving CPR to an elderly gentlemen while nurses prepared to defibrillate. Noah Wyle then proceeds to break the old man's rib with a loud crack.
    • Totally averted in Casualty 1906, which is set before CPR was invented.
    • Subverted hard in Cardiac Arrest with a patient suffering from multiple broken ribs. From the look on the junior doctor's face, suddenly realising you've crushed a man's chest is not nice.
  • In the "Prophecy Girl" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xander revives Buffy with CPR and she recovers fully and quickly. Buffy, of course, is a Slayer with supernatural healing ability, which makes it more acceptable. A more realistic depiction is in the episode "The Body"—Buffy attempts CPR on her mom and breaks a rib, which is common even without Slayer strength. This is also a rare case of it failing (although it's also one where it would be incredibly ridiculous for it to succeed, given that the cause of death was a brain aneurysm). Buffy's not even sure if her mother is alive at this point.
    • She's not...the body is cold, and aneurysms generally kills in very short order. The chances of survival are extremely low without immediate (as in, you're already in the ICU) surgery to stop the bleeding.
    • What sucked was that Buffy had to be talked through the procedure by the 911 operator.
      • Given that she was freaking out over finding her mom dead on the couch...
        • It's virtually impossible to "talk someone through" CPR if they have no prior experience. It's more to calm the caller and develop a rapport quickly enough to get them to calm down enough to give useful information, such as location and specific injuries/conditions, so trained medical personnel might be able to get there in time.
    • The example from "Prophecy Girl" was probably more due to the rescue breathing. Despite repeatedly saying she "died" she had just stopped breathing from drowning. The compressions, being performed on her collarbone, probably did nothing.
  • Dollhouse manages to walk its way into this one with a near-audible "thud". At the end of "The Attic", Echo manages to unplug herself from the neural network by flatlining her vitals and coming back. Victor and Sierra, not as special, however, need help coming back from the dead, and badly-administered CPR seems just the ticket.
  • In Xena: Warrior Princess, Xena accidentally invents CPR to save Gabrielle's life after a seizure (caused by a head injury) apparently kills her. ("She just needs air. I need to get some air into her lungs!" and, later, sobbing and pounding on her chest as she demands that her friend "Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!") Being her love int—er, sidekick, Gabs does.
    • Gabs' reaction is an aversion of the trope: Although the newly-resuscitated Gabrielle doesn't vomit, she is white as a sheet, sweaty, trembling, staring, thoroughly disoriented, and looks as though she would very much like to spew her guts.
  • MacGyver, episode "The Enemy Within": MacGyver and a friend apply CPR to the victim of an induced heart attack, demonstrating technique that would make a first aid teacher fail them on the spot, and keeping at it only long enough to show they tried before giving up and saying "He's dead" in a suitably dramatic voice. Later in the same episode, there's also a dodgy scene involving a defibrillator.
  • Nearly every episode of Baywatch included a swimmer drowning or near-drowning in the ocean, only to be pulled out by a lifeguard and given CPR for a few harrowing seconds before coughing up some water and being as good as new.
    • Averted in some episodes especially in the first 2 seasons (before Pamela Anderson) when CPR is used just to stabilize the victim until defibrillator arrives or is ready. Especially in rescues involving the Scarabs. In one S1 episode there is even a mention when one of the characters is rescued by an amateur lifeguard only to have breathing problems later that night, that every rescue by a professional lifeguard is finished at the hospital, where the victim is checked.
  • This trope was almost averted in the first season of Lost, when guitarist Charlie Pace is hung from a tree while attempting to rescue fellow survivor Claire. When he is found by Jack Shepard (a doctor) and Kate Austen, Jack tries CPR on him for three minutes, but it doesn't seem to work. The music plays very somberly, and it looks like he is dead for good... until Jack starts yelling at him to wake up, and keeps pounding his chest until Charlie comes to. So close.
    • Exactly the same thing happens in Mission: Impossible 3.
    • Lost is infamous for its (mis)use of medicinal techniques. CPR is used in almost every life and/or death scenario. Medicine works much better than it has any right to on the show. The very worst 'medical moment' was the very first death on the show: Boone dies after falling off a cliff while trapped inside a plane, although it doesn't happen all in one shot: we get a whole episode devoted to his death of blood loss/infection which the aformentioned doctor combats by jury-rigging an I.V. tube out of plastic hosing and two sea urchin needles.
      • Several of this incidents are implicitly or explicitly due to the island's Green Rocks properties; in particular, the hanging scene went out of its way to show that Jack was insane to assume he could do anything about Charlie, to the point where he was basically just punching him in the chest near the end.
    • There was actually an AMAZING use of correct CPR techniques in a season 6 episode. Jack did the correct number of compressions, in the right tempo, and used the correct breaths as well. Of course, the character did splutter back to life, but that had less to do with the CPR working, and more being back from the dead. And a zombie....
  • Also used on Punky Brewster, in an episode called "Cherie Life Saver".
  • Episodes of both Law and Order and CSI New York have had HIV-transmission scares from giving artificial respiration, so yay for recognizing that stuff can be transmitted. Even better, both series also note that it's vastly unlikely for HIV to go through saliva.
  • Averted in Criminal Minds wherein a character attempts CPR on his subordinates, but only succeeds in breaking their ribs, and is later taunted with the true statistics of CPR.
    • But it's played straight in a later episode, where it's used to revive a young girl who's been without air for something like seven minutes. She gets up and walks home with her parents.
      • This is much more realistic when done with children, as children who go into respiratory distress are much more likely to bounce back quickly, and unlike adults, if their hearts stop, they frequently restart if exposed to air.
  • Doctor Who, "Smith and Jones". Especially as The Doctor's problem required a blood transfusion, not CPR.
    • Also done when Martha finds Jack unconscious outside of the TARDIS, and later when he electrocutes himself. The Doctor tells her not to bother, with good reason.
    • In "The Curse of the Black Spot,"Rory, who is on alien life support, talks Amy through how to do CPR so she can do it on him once she and the Doctor rescue him. After about a minute of really poorly done CPR, Amy gives up. A few seconds later, Rory starts coughing, sits up, and is fine.
  • In (the American version of) Eleventh Hour, a show about a scientist using science to combat pseudoscientific practices, said scientist brings a person back to life using CPR, heart monitor spiking and all.
  • In Law and Order SVU, one episode has main character Elliot Stabler hit a suspect, once, when trying to arrest him. The subject then collapses and, after a few seconds of checking for a pulse, Stabler starts CPR. Said CPR is performed for approximately 20 seconds before his partner, standing 5 feet away and not bothering to help, exclaims, "He's dead...", at which point Stabler gives up. It does turn out that CPR couldn't have saved him anyway and giving it ruptured the man's spleen, making it an aversion.
  • The X-Files put a paranormal take on CPR - in the episode "Oubliette", Mulder tries to save a drowned girl but his CPR seems futile. But because the girl has a strange physical-psychic transference link to another person, she suddenly revives while her 'partner' is found dead, literally drowned despite sitting in a police car nearby. Funnily enough the girl was played by a then-teenage Jewel Staite (who you might remember from a show that's quite popular on this wiki), who reportedly didn't mind being 'revived' by David Duchovny.
    • But there's another episode (I don't remember the title) wherein Scully, the MD, declares that someone has a heartbeat but isn't breathing, and then begins chest compressions.
      • In the first movie, Mulder gives Scully CPR on the alien ship. While she doesn't precisely vomit, she does cough up a lot of green alien goo, and there's a nasty amount of retching involved. Gillian Anderson said that was definitely her least favorite bit of filming.
  • When Denny has a heart attack in season five of Boston Legal, everyone thinks he's faking until Alan realises he's not breathing and leaps in to save him. Slightly more realistic than usual, as an ambulance is called and we don't see Denny conscious again until he's on his way to the hospital.
  • In 24 Season 2, Jack saves Nina by giving her a few mouth breathes, without fixating her chest or using any compression at all. It works.
  • Partly averted in Family Matters of all shows, when Urkel saves an electrocuted Carl with CPR, he remembers to get a CPR mask out of Carl's first aid kit, preventing any mouth contact. Only partly averted in that sense, as in a few moments Carl is fine and dandy.
  • Averted in the season four episode "Breath of Life" for The District. Sergeant Brander performs CPR on another officer, using it the proper way to keep the victim going long enough for an ambulance, after the victim's partner refused to do it because the victim is gay. Brander forgetting, in a tense situation, to use a mouth guard makes for a minor bit of suspense, as he waits for test results about whether he caught any disease (particularly AIDS) from the victim.
  • Eureka depicted it as a semi-romantic kiss bwetween two love interests involving no chest compressions- averted in that it was just used to keep the victim stable until medical help could arrive.
    • It's not even CPR (do they call it that?), thanks to some Applied Phlebotium the victim's lungs are filling with water from the INSIDE as some kind of "compressed molecules" thing decompresses. Sheriff Carter has to keep filling them with air for her until help can arrive. It's actually Rescue Breathing.
    • Later done by Allison Blake attempting to revive a man with chest compressions alone. (Hands-only CPR is medically acceptable).
  • Played with in the pilot of Arrested Development; Tobias lost his medical license as a result of incompetently applying CPR to an elderly man who was simply taking a nap.
  • Stargate Universe: To break Col. Telford's brainwashing, Young seals him in a room and evacuates the air. A few seconds after he takes his last breath, Young orders the room repressurized and rushes in, drops to his knees, and starts compressions without a pause, without checking Telford's airway, or really even so much as looking at him. Naturally, Telford is breathing and conscious within a matter of seconds.
    • Far from completely justified, but Young had just watched him pass out. The only thing that might have been wrong was if his tongue got stuck over the airway, and the situation was frantic enough that we can assume Young just forgot to check that.
  • One episode of Farscape had D'Argo exposed to the vacuum of space. Upon retrieving him, Crichton tries a Precordial Thump—on an alien with a biology he knows very little about—and the others immediately pull him away and ask what the hell he thinks he's doing. He then lets Zhaan handle it.
    • Not really an example though as, due to D'Argo's... unique biology, whenever he bleeds, someone has to hit him hard enough to increase the bleeding, otherwise it poisons him (somehow). It wasn't an attempt to revive him, but, as Crichton specifically said, a precaution in case he was bleeding internally.
    • Much straighter example in "The Flax" where John and Aeryn have to depressurise and then repressurise their spacecraft with only one working spacesuit between them. The solution: stop John's breathing with a Peacekeeper poison and then resuscitate him with CPR! And his only complaint is that the poison hurt more than Aeryn told him it would.
  • An episode of classic Star Trek, "The Paradise Syndrome", features Kirk using a (now outdated) variant of the Silvester Method on one of the locals.
  • Averted in an early episode of Mash when Hawkeye had to perform open heart massage to resuscitate a soldier. The soldier didn't make it. A few seasons later, when newly-arrived BJ Hunnicutt was trying to resuscitate a soldier, Colonel Potter asked if he was going to use open heart massage. BJ answered, "I can do it closed. I've seen it done in the States."
  • Played both Clean and Reliable on the episode of The Jeffersons in which George winds up using the technique to save the leader of a KKK group.
  • Partially averted in an episode of Herman's Head where Herman's CPR usage on a friend ends up cracking some of her ribs. Unfortunately a lawyer seems to take advantage of the general lack of knowledge of CPR risks to get the friend to sue Herman for the injuries.
  • In a first-season episode of Charmed, Andy brings Prue back this way. She coughs a little bit when she starts to come back, but not very much and it very quickly turns into a hug. Possibly justified given that Prue's stopped heart was intentionally induced using a potion from the Book of Shadows, and she explicitly stated (to Phoebe; Andy had no idea what was going on) that it was completely reviveable with CPR as long as the CPR was administered within four minutes of taking the potion.
  • A form of Bait and Switch Credits is used in Ashes to Ashes when previewing Episode 6 of Season 1. Gene is pictured about to kiss Alex. The reveal is that it's only CPR after she is rescued from a refrigerator in a restaurant used as a front for money-laundering.
  • Used in the online-only webisodes for The Walking Dead, which you can watch here (CPR happens first thing, not safe for kids gore.) First off, the woman preforming never calls for help. While the woman checks for a heartbeat, the zombie's eyes open. If the woman would have at least looked at the face she was about to put her lips on, we could have avoided all of this.
  • Done surprisingly well in a recent episode of The Mentalist - certainly, it IS pretty, but quite realistic anyway (automatic defibrillator!) and the "reliable" part is justified (the reason for passing out is drowning, which tends to come with a better prognosis).
  • Smallville — "Pilot", "Hourglass", "Accelerate", and "Hereafter".


  • In Red vs. Blue Grif somehow uses CPR to save Sarge from a sniper round to the head, and they were both wearing helmets the entire time. Doc later tells him that was the best thing to do (FYI, he's not a very good medic).
    • Lampshaded when Sarge, annoyed at having to admit Grif did something right and incredulous at his methodology (which he praised Simmons for until corrected), asks, "What would you do if they stabbed me in the toe? Rub my neck with aloe vera?" Further lampshaded when Caboose gets shot in the foot, and Doc responds predictably.

Video Games

  • Played straight in the Xbox Live Arcade game Castle Crashers, as other players can practically instantly revive a defeated ally by pumping on their chest. Probably an Acceptable Break From Reality, and considering the game's atmosphere... not so unexpected. Though since they could already cast magic in it, it makes you wonder why they didn't just use White Magic.
    • Probably because all of the magic is offensive save for the King's.
  • Played completely straight in the Sierra game Codename: ICEMAN. In the opening area, a girl swims out to sea, and promptly needs saving. The following procedure has to be done according to the handbook that came with the game, otherwise the girl dies, and well you lose puzzle points.
  • Odd subversion in the original Half-Life. Shortly after the Resonance Cascade, you find a scientist performing chest compressions on a security guard. Realistic in that he never stops, but played straight in that the security guard immediately recovers.
    • Opposing Force had another scientist in the middle of performing CPR on a soldier just as Shephard wakes up at the beginning of the game. After a few seconds, the scientist gives up and addresses Shephard, saying that at least "[his] life-saving efforts weren't completely in vain".
  • Final Fantasy VII had Cloud, who had not been trained, perform mouth-to-mouth on a nine-year-old girl. However it does seem to have that less-than-5% success rate with how frickin' hard it is to do!
  • In the Grand Theft Auto series, NPCs who are beaten up or shot to death can be CPR'ed by paramedics who arrive at the scene. The poor victim will then get up and be back to full health, after which you can beat him up again. Rinse, repeat. Heck, repeatedly killing gangsters in this manner can be used in San Andreas to start a turf war in sparsely-populated territory.
  • In Yahtzee's retro adventure game Trilby's Notes, the titular character is revived via CPR after a fatal stab wound. The sequel reveals that he was really revived by gaining the life force from a future clone.
  • In Fahrenheit (2005 video game), you can at one point drag a small boy out of a frozen lake and give him CPR. You can easily lose the segment if you're not fast enough, and doing so nets you a game over.
  • Also by Quantic Dream, Heavy Rain has you perform CPR on Shaun if you free him from the water pit thing. It's impossible to fail it.
  • The Continue screen for the arcade beat-'em-up The Punisher (and Nick Fury) shows your character receiving CPR. Of course, the only true salvation in this scenario is the quarter in your pocket.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots Johnny Gave Meryl CPR after she drowned. She did spit up water after that but she was revived.
  • At the end of Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow, Lian administers CPR to Gabe after he is shot. It is unknown whether he survives.
  • Played straight and used to up the (quite bountiful) Les Yay in Aoi Shiro when Syouko does this to a formerly drowned Migiwa as pictured above.


  • General Protection Fault: When a flood occurs in a 2001 storyline, Nick nearly drowns while trying to rescue a mother and child from the floodwaters. Ki ends up giving him CPR. Though he appears just fine initially, he does end up getting sick, somewhat subverting the trope.
  • Spinnerette

Web Original

  • PPC: Humorously averted in one PPC story, in an incident where a Sue nearly drowned and the agents assumed her lust-object was going to perform CPR:

"You're kidding. He's going to give her the Heimlich manoeuvre? But that doesn't help someone who's drowning! That's designed to help choking victims!"
"Don't be silly, Isaiah. It's not the Heimlich manoeuvre, it's the Hemlic manoeuvre. My turn for filling in the wrong word!"
Isaiah watched with fascination as Ublaz gave the Sue the Hemlock manoeuvre.

  • Online roleplayers tend to avert most of the points of this, if only for the Hilarity Ensues of the recipient suddenly waking up and barfing into the other person's mouth as soon as s/he attempts to give mouth-to-mouth. Of course, that means it still has a 100% success rate.

Western Animation

  • This used with some justification in the Gargoyles episode "Hunter's Moon," where one gargoyle, Angela, is seriously wounded and the clan's human ally Elisa performs CPR. Here, the point is not to revive her, but to keep her alive for just a few minutes until the sun rises—gargoyles turn to stone at dawn, but during their stone sleep they heal of even the most serious injuries. When she "wakes up" that evening Angela is basically at full strength and ready to go back into battle.
  • Perhaps the cleanest, prettiest, and most reliable version of CPR shown on TV was in one episode of American Dad, where Roger passes out after choking on an unspecified foodstuff. Steve, who had become impromptu certified in CPR the previous day, immediately jumps to his side without even thinking about checking for a pulse or other vital signs, claiming "I know CPR!" before bringing him back from a potentially fatal situation with two breaths and no use of chest compression whatsoever. Don't even get me started on how he neglected to think of the Heimlich maneuver...
    • The lack of a Heimlich seemed more like a plot device, given that Steve becomes pregnant because he came in contact with an alien "seed" after giving him CPR. Yeah...
    • Never mind the fact that Roger is a space alien and therefore may well not even have a circulatory system, for all we know. I doubt Steve's CPR training included intergalactic anatomy lessons. But who cares; it's a comedy.
    • In another episode, Steve's chain smoking swimming coach gives him CPR... while still smoking a cigarette. Naturally, tongue is involved. Not exactly pretty.
  • X-Men, the 90s Animated Series: When Cyclops passes out after a couple seconds' exposure to toxic gasses, Rogue gives him CPR to return him to normal and it never comes up again. (However, she gains his uncontrollable Eye Beams from the Kiss of Life.) This is especially silly since Rogue's power, in addition to giving her the abilities of the person she touches, also sucks "life force", which you'd think someone far enough gone to need CPR wouldn't really have to spare.
  • Averted humorously in the episode of SpongeBob SquarePants where a large flounder attempts to beat him for no reason in particular. When the flounder suffers a medical crisis, he wakes up in a hospital to learn that his life was saved when SpongeBob performed CPR on him for six and a half hours straight. Regardless, the understanding is that EMS was responsible for his ultimate resurrection.

Spongebob: They said you were fine after the first three minutes, but I just wanted to make sure.

  • Hilariously parodied on Family Guy when Chivalrous Pervert Glenn Quagmire (during a test to see if some therapy to make him non-perverted worked) suddenly loses control and runs into the security room in a clothing store. There he takes notice of a woman having a heart attack in the changing room. He darts out of the security room and runs to her body and begins what appears to be CPR. However when the woman wakes up, everybody in the store cheers Quagmire for saving her life. Quagmire's response:

Quagmire: What the hell's CPR?

  • The trope is seen in a few Simpsons episodes:
    • "Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood": One scout member gives one to Bart after being choked by his necktie caught in the door.

Ned: Now, just breathe into him every three seconds. Make sure you form a tight seal around his mouth!

    • "Dog of Death": SLH is revived by CPR during his stomach operation after SLH dreams of going to heaven.
    • "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Marge": After Homer faints into the Ark Ice Cream Bowl, Becky, noticing he's not breathing, gives Homer CPR to try to revive him only to have Marge think that she's an upsurper the minute she arrived.
    • "Mobile Homer": After being smashed repeatedly on the neck by the garage door and getting suffocated by the spiders, Lisa gives her father CPR with Bart compressing his chest.
    • "The Haw-Hawed Couple": After Nelson saves Bart, Skinner gives Bart CPR which lead the children to blurt out a 'gay joke' between them.
    • "Stealing First Base": When Bart accidently falls off the roof of the school causing him not to breathe, Nikki rushes to save him with her knowledge of CPR, defying the 'no touch' policy Springfield Elementary has. What follows between is a montage of kissing scenes from classic movies (The Godfather Part II, Lady and the Tramp, From Here to Eternity, Gone With The Wind, Alien 3, etc.), just when Nikki proceeds to breathe air into Bart's lungs, reviving him, saving his life.
    • "24 Minutes": After Bart and Willie are saved from drowning, Mrs. Krabappel gives Willie CPR, who would rather die than clean the mess in the gym.
    • Subverted in "Pranks and Greens": Andy shows Bart a slideshow of his body of pranks, one of which showing a flight attendant giving him CPR after he faked a heart attack on an international flight.
    • "Rome-Old and Juli-Eh": During a montage of Selma and Abe dating, Selma is shown giving him CPR.
    • "Midnight RX": Mr. Burns gives Smithers CPR after applying his thyroid medication.
  • Hey Arnold!: Subverted and inverted at the end of "Summer Love" in which Helga gives Arnold CPR after being rescued in a "Babewatch" film shooting, only for her to give him a kiss which surprises Arnold.
  • Averted in the Justice League episode Wild Cards. John, the Green Lantern, isn't breathing, and Hawkgirl gives him CPR. It doesn't work. She then uses her electrified mace as a Magical Defibrillator, which revives him just long enough for her to fly off with him so he can get some real medical attention.
  • Averted in the 2012 version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After Karai is nearly killed by her now truly insane adoptive father (the Shredder) Leonardo uses CPR to save her life, but even so, she is in the hospital for the rest of the season.

Real Life

  • The closet thing to "Clean, Pretty, Reliable" is in drowning victims—successful CPR can revive someone back to consciousness, and people who were quickly recovered have a comparatively high chance of success. Though the high concentration of water makes the vomiting look more "clean", it's still far from pretty.
  • In 2012, English football player Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch. He was treated with CPR for 78 minutes (plus a total of 15 defibrillator shocks, and various drugs in hospital) before his heart resumed beating and given the circumstances was almost perfectly fine.
    • Likely part of the miraculous recovery was the fact that medics were on him right after he collapsed, and CPR commenced within a minute. So his brain wasn't without oxygen for long.