Medical Specialty >> Cardiology

Doctors Lounge - Cardiology Answers

Back to Cardiology Answers List

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. Doctors Lounge ( does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, physicians, products, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be mentioned on the Site. 

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her physician. Please read our 'Terms and Conditions of Use' carefully before using this site.

Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Heart Failure

Question: Is it possible to Code while on life support?

 easycomplications - Sat Jan 10, 2009 2:47 pm

A friend of mine lost her father last year after a heart attack. She was told he coded while on life support, but has been unsure about it. I'm pretty sure it's possible but i think she needs more assurance then that. I've searched up and down the web for a medical answer and haven't found one. If you could help me out with an answer i could provide her to answer her concerns, i'd greatly appreciate it. Thankyou for your time.
 John Kenyon, CNA - Sat Jan 10, 2009 10:30 pm

User avatar Hello -

It is technically possible to code while on life support, although it's kind of a grey area. If the heart stops producing its own sinus impulse, eventually, over a period of anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours, the heart will stop beating on its own. "Life support" generally means maintaining artificial mechanical respiration, which tends to give the heart an atrial "kick" and keep it beating, but if the sinus node fails, and the ventricles then slowly fail also, once cardiac activity stops and is unexpected and unplanned (depending upon whether the patient had a "do not resucistate" -- DNR -- or not) the code is called. Otherwise it's considered that the patient simply "expired." The result is the same if there is a DNR order or if the heart's electrical system simply won't respond anymore.

If there is no DNR and the patient's heart is restarted, it is a code with successful resucitation.

As I said, it's something of a grey area, as some people mean by "coded" that the heart stopped, which is entirely possible while on life support.

I hope this answers your question and reassures your friend.

| Check a doctor's response to similar questions

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

  • Ask a Doctor Teams: Respond to patient questions and discuss challenging presentations with other members.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us