The role of hypothermia in post-cardiac arrest patients with return of spontaneous circulation: a systematic review

James H Walters, Peter T Morley, Jerry P Nolan
Resuscitation 2011, 82 (5): 508-16

OBJECTIVES: To update a comprehensive systematic review of the use of therapeutic hypothermia after cardiac arrest that was undertaken initially as part of the 2010 International Consensus on Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science. The specific question addressed was: 'in post-cardiac arrest patients with a return of spontaneous circulation, does the induction of mild hypothermia improve morbidity or mortality when compared with usual care?'

METHODS: Pubmed was searched using ("heart arrest" or "cardiopulmonary resuscitation") AND "hypothermia, induced" using 'Clinical Queries' search strategy; EmBASE was searched using (heart arrest) OR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) AND hypothermia; The Cochrane database of systematic reviews; ECC EndNote Library for "hypothermia" in abstract OR title. Excluded were animal studies, reviews and editorials, surveys of implementation, analytical models, reports of single cases, pre-arrest or during arrest cooling and group where the intervention was not hypothermia alone.

RESULTS: 77 studies met the criteria for further review. Of these, four were meta-analyses (LOE 1); seven were randomised controlled trials (LOE 1), although six of these were from the same set of patients; nine were non-randomised, concurrent controls (LOE 2); 15 were trials with retrospective controls (LOE 3); 40 had no controls (LOE 4); and one was extrapolated from a non-cardiac arrest group (LOE 5).

CONCLUSION: There is evidence supporting the use of mild therapeutic hypothermia to improve neurological outcome in patients who remain comatose following the return of spontaneous circulation after a cardiac arrest; however, much of the evidence is from low-level, observational studies. Of seven randomised controlled trials, six use data from the same patients.

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