From evidence to clinical practice: effective implementation of therapeutic hypothermia to improve patient outcome after cardiac arrest

Mauro Oddo, Marie-Denise Schaller, François Feihl, Vincent Ribordy, Lucas Liaudet
Critical Care Medicine 2006, 34 (7): 1865-73

OBJECTIVES: Therapeutic hypothermia has been recommended for postcardiac arrest coma due to ventricular fibrillation. However, no studies have evaluated whether therapeutic hypothermia could be effectively implemented in intensive care practice and whether it would improve the outcome of all comatose patients with cardiac arrest, including those with shock or with cardiac arrest due to nonventricular fibrillation rhythms.

DESIGN: Retrospective study.

SETTING: Fourteen-bed medical intensive care unit in a university hospital.

PATIENTS: Patients were 109 comatose patients with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation and nonventricular fibrillation rhythms (asystole/pulseless electrical activity).

INTERVENTIONS: We analyzed 55 consecutive patients (June 2002 to December 2004) treated with therapeutic hypothermia (to a central target temperature of 33 degrees C, using external cooling). Fifty-four consecutive patients (June 1999 to May 2002) treated with standard resuscitation served as controls. Efficacy, safety, and outcome at hospital discharge were assessed. Good outcome was defined as Glasgow-Pittsburgh Cerebral Performance category 1 or 2.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: In patients treated with therapeutic hypothermia, the median time to reach the target temperature was 5 hrs, with a progressive reduction over the 18 months of data collection. Therapeutic hypothermia had a major positive impact on the outcome of patients with cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation (good outcome in 24 of 43 patients [55.8%] of the therapeutic hypothermia group vs. 11 of 43 patients [25.6%] of the standard resuscitation group, p = .004). The benefit of therapeutic hypothermia was also maintained in patients with shock (good outcome in five of 17 patients of the therapeutic hypothermia group vs. zero of 14 of the standard resuscitation group, p = .027). The outcome after cardiac arrest due to nonventricular fibrillation rhythms was poor and did not differ significantly between the two groups. Therapeutic hypothermia was of particular benefit in patients with short duration of cardiac arrest (<30 mins).

CONCLUSIONS: Therapeutic hypothermia for the treatment of postcardiac arrest coma can be successfully implemented in intensive care practice with a major benefit on patient outcome, which appeared to be related to the type and the duration of initial cardiac arrest and seemed maintained in patients with shock.

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