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Medical futility in asystolic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest

Authors

  • T. VÄYRYNEN,

    1. Helsinki Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
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  • M. KUISMA,

    1. Helsinki Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
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  • T. MÄÄTTÄ,

    1. Helsinki Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
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  • J. BOYD

    1. Helsinki Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland
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Address:
Dr Taneli Väyrynen
Helsinki Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine
Helsinki University Central Hospital
PO Box 112
FIN-00099 Helsingin kaupunki
Finland
e-mail: Taneli.vayrynen@hus.fi

Abstract

Objectives: To study the factors associated with short- and long-term survival after asystolic out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, with a reference to medical futility.

Methods: This is a retrospective observational study conducted in Helsinki, Finland during 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2005. All out-of-hospital cardiac arrests were prospectively registered in the cardiac arrest database. Of 3291 arrests, 1455 had asystole as the first registered rhythm. These patients represent the study population.

Results: A short time interval to the initiation of advanced life support (ALS) was associated with a long-term benefit, but a short first responding unit (FRU) response time had only a short-term benefit. Conversion of asystole into a shockable rhythm provided only a short-term benefit. The prognosis was poor if the FRU response time was over 10 min or the ALS response time was over 11 min in bystander-witnessed arrests, and if the duration of resuscitation was over 8 min in emergency medical services (EMS)-witnessed arrests. Bystander-CPR was associated with increased 30-day mortality. The 30-day survival rate after an unwitnessed arrest (n=548) was 0.5%. All survivors in this group were either hypothermic or were victims of near-drowning.

Conclusions: Resuscitation should be withheld in cases of unwitnessed asystole, excluding cases of hypothermia and near-drowning. The prognosis is poor if the FRU response time is over 10 min or the ALS response time is over 10–15 min in bystander-witnessed arrests. The decision of whether or not to attempt resuscitation should not be influenced by the presence of bystander-CPR. Early initiation of ALS should be prioritised in the treatment of out-of-hospital asystole.

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