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Most patients do not survive cardiac arrest outside hospitals

Two-thirds of cardiac arrest patients die before they get to the hospital, and less than a quarter of patients in the hospital survive it.

By Stephen Feller
Most patients do not survive cardiac arrest outside hospitals
Cardiac arrest is caused by a disturbance of the electrical activity of the heart that stops it from beating. Tyler Olsen/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, June 30 (UPI) -- Nearly two-thirds of all cardiac arrests happen outside of a hospital, with only 6 percent of those patients surviving and most of them dying before they get to the hospital, according to a new study.

Approximately 600,000 people in the United States experience cardiac arrest each year. Some 395,000 occur outside of hospitals -- and just 24 percent of patients in hospitals survive cardiac arrest -- making it the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind cancer and heart disease.

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Unlike a heart attack, which is caused by a narrowing or blockage of the coronary artery that prevents blood from reaching he heart, cardiac arrest is caused by a disturbance of the electrical activity of the heart that stops it from beating.

"Cardiac arrest survival rates are unacceptably low," said Robert Graham, director of the national program office for Aligning Forces for Quality at George Washington University, in a press release. "Although breakthroughs in understanding and treating cardiac arrest are promising, the ability to deliver timely interventions and high-quality care is inconsistent."

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Researchers took note of wide disparities in patient outcomes, due to a combination of variations in patient demographics and health status, geographic characteristics, and system-level factors affecting the quality and availability of care. They found that 8 out of 10 cardiac arrests occur in the home and 46 percent are witnessed by another person, however less than 3 percent of the U.S. population receives CPR training, limiting the ways they can help the situation.

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The major symptom of cardiac arrest is loss of consciousness when the heart stops, and every minute without treatment decreases the chances of survival without disability, or survival at all. The main goal of researchers is to decrease the time from arrest to the first chest compression given to a patient.

Among the recommendations made to improve the levels of survival from cardiac arrest were educating and training the public to recognize cardiac arrest and understand how to respond, enhance performance of EMS systems and dispatcher-assisted CPR, develop strategies to improve care at hospitals, and to expand research into cardiac arrest resuscitation.

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The study is published by the National Academies Press.

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