Increasing cardiac arrest survival rates

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
September 23, 2008 4:03:05 PM PDT
How do you, or someone you love, survive a heart attack? There are two factors - where you live and who is around you at the time of the attack. Heart disease is the number one killer in our country. For hundreds of thousands of Americans, a sudden cardiac arrest can happen anywhere, often in the home. Surviving it can largely depend on where you live.

Cardiac arrest can happen suddenly and often with no warning signs. The mechanical operation of the heart simply stops.

Survival can depend on many issues, but a new study found great variation.

"Understanding how much variation there is in cardiac arrest in our communities is an important step towards reducing gaps in care for heart patients," said Dr. Graham Nichol, of the University of Washington.

Dr. Nichol and fellow researchers in Seattle studied the data from more than 20,000 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The cases came from 10 regions around the country.

They found that only 58 percent had resuscitation attempted, and survival-to-discharge from the hospital ranged from 7.9 percent to 21 percent.

The large discrepancies appear to be associated not only with a patient's own risk, but also with differences in the local approach to emergency response.

Another factor in the survival is whether the patient receives CPR from a bystander. The researchers found that only about a quarter of the patients in the study received CPR from a bystander.

That is presumably because not enough people or family members are trained in CPR.

The researchers would like to see communities take action.

"Some communities may need to train more of the public to recognize and respond to medical emergencies," Dr. Nichol said. "Other communities may need to focus on improving their local organized emergency response."

Training more citizens in CPR and improving the local EMS response are two solutions to improving survival. The researchers would also like to see the issue treated as a public health problem, including keeping public track of survival rates so communities can see how they're doing and make changes as needed.

For more on the study, visit The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg

WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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