Improving Survival From Cardiac Arrest: A Review of Contemporary Practice and Challenges

Jacob C Jentzer, Casey M Clements, R Scott Wright, Roger D White, Allan S Jaffe
Annals of Emergency Medicine 2016, 68 (6): 678-689
Cardiac arrest is a common and lethal condition frequently encountered by emergency medicine providers. Resuscitation of persons after cardiac arrest remains challenging, and outcomes remain poor overall. Successful resuscitation hinges on timely, high-quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The optimal method of providing chest compressions and ventilator support during cardiac arrest remains uncertain. Prompt and effective defibrillation of ventricular arrhythmias is one of the few effective therapies available for treatment of cardiac arrest. Despite numerous studies during several decades, no specific drug delivered during cardiac arrest has been shown to improve neurologically intact survival after cardiac arrest. Extracorporeal circulation can rescue a minority of highly selected patients with refractory cardiac arrest. Current management of pulseless electrical activity is associated with poor outcomes, but it is hoped that a more targeted diagnostic approach based on electrocardiography and bedside cardiac ultrasonography may improve survival. The evolution of postresuscitation care appears to have improved cardiac arrest outcomes in patients who are successfully resuscitated. The initial approach to early stabilization includes standard measures, such as support of pulmonary function, hemodynamic stabilization, and rapid diagnostic assessment. Coronary angiography is often indicated because of the high frequency of unstable coronary artery disease in comatose survivors of cardiac arrest and should be performed early after resuscitation. Optimizing and standardizing our current approach to cardiac arrest resuscitation and postresuscitation care will be essential for developing strategies for improving survival after cardiac arrest.

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