• cardiac arrest;
  • heart arrest;
  • resuscitation;
  • drug therapy;
  • CPR;
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation


Objective: To generate hypotheses regarding the association of standard Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) drugs with human cardiac arrest survival.

Methods: This observational cohort study was conducted over a two-year period in the wards, intensive care units, and EDs of two tertiary care hospitals. Included were adult patients who suffered cardiac arrest either inside or outside the hospital and who required epinephrine according to standard ACLS guidelines. Six standard ACLS drugs (given while CPR was in progress) were assessed for association with survival from resuscitation to one hour and to hospital discharge by univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses.

Results: In the 529 patients studied, initial cardiac rhythm had no impact on the association between drug administration and survival. The time of drug administration (quartile of ACLS period) was associated with resuscitation for atropine (p < 0.05) and lidocaine (p < 0.01). The odds ratios (95% CIs) for successful resuscitation, after multivariate adjustment for potential confounders, were: a respiratory initiating cause, 3.7 (2.1–6.4); each 5-minute increase in CPR-ACLS interval, 0.5 (0.4–0.7); each 5-minute duration of ACLS, 0.9 (0.8–1.0); atropine, 1.2 (1.0–1.3); bretylium, 0.4 (0.1–1.1); calcium, 0.8 (0.2–2.4); lidocaine, 0.9 (0.7–1.1); procainamide, 21.0 (5.2–84.0); and sodium bicarbonate 1.2 (1.0–1.6). All other potential confounding variables entered into the model were not significantly associated with resuscitation.

Conclusion: Initiating cause of arrest, time to ACLS, and duration of ACLS were important correlates of survival. Other than procainamide, standard ACLS drugs had relatively little association with survival, but timing of administration may be an important factor. Further research using definitive large randomized controlled trials is warranted to assess the role of drug therapy in improving cardiac arrest survival.