Health Team

Study: Cardiac-arrest survival may depend on where patient lives

Posted September 23, 2008 5:50 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2008 9:19 p.m. EDT

Cardiac arrest – the loss of mechanical activity of the heart – strikes suddenly and often without warning.

Researchers focusing on 10 areas in North America found that survival rates of patients with cardiac arrest depended on where a patient lived.

Of more than 20,000 cases of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest studied, someone tried to resuscitate more than half of the patients. Fewer than 1,000 cardiac arrest patients were discharged alive.

“Someone in one community is 200 percent more likely to have cardiac arrest and 500 percent more likely to die when they have cardiac arrest,” said Dr. Graham Nichol of the University of Washington.

The large discrepancies appeared to be linked with differences in a patient's own risk for cardiac arrest and in the local approach to emergency response, the study showed.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some communities may need to focus on training the public in how to respond to medical emergencies. Other communities may need to focus on improving their local emergency response, Nichol said.

“We think it is important that cardiac arrest be reported to public health groups so that every community knows how often cardiac arrest occurs and what the local rate of success is,” Nichol said.

Researchers found that about a quarter of patients in the study received cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, from a bystander. Many cases do occur in the home with no one around, and some occur in the presence of people not trained in CPR.

In order to improve public health, additional funding for research related to emergency cardiovascular care is needed, researchers said.