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Survival rates improving for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients

November 18, 2014 Toronto

The rate of survival improved significantly for patients who experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and were transported to an Ontario hospital during a 10-year-study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

Cardiac arrest is caused when the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating.  It can cause death if not treated within minutes because blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. It is estimated that one person suffers out-of-hospital cardiac arrest every 12 minutes in Canada, totaling more than 40,000 events each year. 

“Our study showed significant improvements in short- and long-term survival, in which patients were 50 per cent more likely to survive to 30 days and 1 year,” said Dr. Dennis Ko, lead author and senior scientist at ICES.

The study, published today in Circulation, showed that patients who experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrest also had an increased prevalence of cardiac risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension but a decrease in the prevalence of many prior cardiovascular conditions such as myocardial infarction and heart failure.

The study evaluated 34,291 out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients who were transported and treated at an emergency department in Ontario between 2002 and 2012. During the study period, 30-day and 1 year survival improved from 9.4 per cent to 13.6 per cent and 7.7 per cent to 11.8 per cent, respectively.

“Survival improvement varied based on age of patients. The youngest age group had the largest improvement with almost a doubling of survival, while the oldest age group experienced the smallest improvement,” added Ko.

The researchers add that the overall incidence of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients transported to hospital alive did not change over the past decade. In fact, the majority of patients died prior to reaching the hospital.

“Despite the encouraging finding that cardiac arrest patients reaching the hospital are more likely to survive, much effort is needed to improve the survival of patients who die prior to reaching the hospital.”

Authors: Wong M, Morrison L, Qiu F, Austin PC. Cheskes S, Dorian P, Scales D, Tu J, Verbeek P, Wijeysunder H, Ko D.

“Trends in short and long-term survival among out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients alive at hospital arrival,” was published today in Circulation.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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