• antiarrhythmia agents;
  • arrhythmia;
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation;
  • survival


Objectives:  Procainamide is an antiarrhythmic drug of unproven efficacy in cardiac arrest. The association between procainamide and survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest was investigated to better determine the drug’s potential role in resuscitation.

Methods:  The authors conducted a 10-year study of all witnessed, out-of-hospital, ventricular fibrillation (VF) or pulseless ventricular tachycardia (VT) cardiac arrests treated by emergency medical services (EMS) in King County, Washington. Patients were considered eligible for procainamide if they received more than three defibrillation shocks and intravenous (IV) bolus lidocaine. Four logistic regression models were used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) describing the relationship between procainamide and survival.

Results:  Of the 665 eligible patients, 176 received procainamide, and 489 did not. On average, procainamide recipients received more shocks and pharmacologic interventions and had lengthier resuscitations. Adjusted for their clinical and resuscitation characteristics, procainamide recipients had a lower likelihood of survival to hospital discharge (OR = 0.52; 95% CI = 0.36 to 0.75). Further adjustment for receipt of other cardiac medications during resuscitation negated this apparent adverse association (OR = 1.02; 95% CI = 0.66 to 1.57).

Conclusions:  In this observational study of out-of-hospital VF and pulseless VT arrest, procainamide as second-line antiarrhythmic treatment was not associated with survival in models attempting to best account for confounding. The results suggest that procainamide, as administered in this investigation, does not have a large impact on outcome, but cannot eliminate the possibility of a smaller, clinically relevant effect on survival.

ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2010; 17:617–623 © 2010 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine