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 New IOM Report Recommends Strategies To Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival Rates

By the time the reader reaches the end of this article, three Americans will have suffered a cardiac arrest. If all three are witnessed by a bystander, only one of them will survive.
In fact, cardiac arrest hits nearly 600,000 people each year, killing most of them. In the United States, nearly 400,000 cases annually occur outside of a hospital, and only 6 percent survive. Patients suffering cardiac arrest in a hospital fare better, at a 24 percent survival rate.
These alarming statistics from a new report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) highlight the urgency to improve the survival rates and quality of life of those who are afflicted with this condition.
Following a cardiac event, each minute without treatment decreases the likelihood of surviving without disability, and survival rates depend greatly on where the cardiac arrest occurs, said the committee that carried out the study and wrote the report titled “Strategies to Improve Cardiac Arrest Survival: A Time to Act.”
“There is a significant and inadequate addressing of a public health problem in the U.S.: cardiac arrest,” said Tom Aufderheide, MD, MS, professor and associate chair of research affairs in the Department of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee in an exclusive Provider interview.  “However, there are locations in the U.S. that have higher survival rates, which indicates that we can increase survival.”
Contrary to popular opinion, cardiac arrest is not the same thing as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs due to blockage of a coronary artery, resulting in heart muscle damage. Heart attack symptoms may include pain, dizziness, and shortness of breath, among others. Cardiac arrest is an electrical problem of the heart in which, suddenly and unexpectedly, the heart ceases to pump blood. Symptoms include an almost instantaneous loss of consciousness. The treatment goal for a cardiac arrest is to facilitate the return of circulation and restore the electric rhythm, while for a heart attack, it is to reopen blocked arteries and restore blood flow.
The report recommends several actions to improve survival and quality of life following cardiac arrest:
·         Establish a national registry of cardiac arrest to monitor performance, identify problems, and track progress;
·         Educate and train the public on how to recognize a cardiac arrest, contact emergency responders, and administer CPR and automated external defibrillators (bystanders and family members double the survival rates for cardiac arrest by applying these methods, according to the report);
·         Enhance the training and performance of emergency medical service (EMS) systems;
·         Set national accreditation standards related to cardiac arrest for hospitals and health care systems;
·         Adopt continuous quality improvement programs for cardiac arrest for hospitals and EMS and health care systems;
·         Expand research in cardiac arrest resuscitation; and
·         Create a national cardiac arrest collaborative to unify the field and identify common goals.
The report was sponsored by the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, American College of Cardiology, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“Why doesn’t [cardiac arrest] resonate with the public as much as stroke or cancer does?” said IOM President Victor Dzau at a recent press conference. “If existing and developing capabilities are leveraged, the system of cardiac arrest response can be strengthened throughout the U.S.”
Jackie Oberst is Provider’s managing editor. Email her at or follow her on Twitter, @ProviderMag.
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