When a child's heart stops, onset time of abnormal rhythms is crucialJune 01, 2006
Ventricular fibrillation, the life-threatening disordered heart rhythms that may accompany full cardiac arrest, occurs more frequently in children than commonly believed, according to a large national pediatric study.
Furthermore, not all ventricular fibrillation (VF) is the same, said study co-investigators Vinay Nadkarni, M.D., and Peter A. Meaney, M.D., M.P.H., specialists in Critical Care Medicine at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. They added that VF is more likely to be fatal if it is not the initial heart rhythm detected at the start of cardiac arrest, but instead develops later during the arrest, typically during resuscitation.
A research team from the American Heart Association's National Registry of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) analyzed records from more than 1,000 children who suffered cardiac arrests while in the hospital. The largest study by far of outcomes from VF in children, it appears in the June 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers from Children's Hospital and from the University of Arizona led the study, which included records from 159 participating hospitals.
"This landmark in-hospital study challenges prevailing paradigms in pediatric cardiac critical care," said senior author Robert A. Berg, M.D., of the Steele Children's Research Center at the University of Arizona. "Abnormal rhythms were thought to be uncommon during cardiac arrests in children, occurring less than 10 percent of the time, but we found the occurrence to be 27 percent. When physicians applied shocks promptly from defibrillators, many of these children survived, and the vast majority of the survivors have good neurological outcomes."
"Secondly," continued Dr. Berg, "we learned that cardiac arrests due to initial shockable rhythms often have good outcomes, whereas cardiac arrests with shockable rhythms developing during resuscitation typically have poor outcomes. Now we have to learn what we can do to improve outcomes from the latter cases."
Of the 1,005 children who suffered in-hospital cardiac arrest, more than one in four (272 patients) had documented VF or tachycardia (rapid heart beats) that require shocks at some point during the arrest. In 104 of those patients VF or tachycardia occurred initially, while in 149 patients it occurred at a subsequent time during the arrest. Of the children with initial abnormal rhythms, 35 percent survived to hospital discharge, compared to 11 percent of children with subsequent abnormal rhythms.
The largest group of patients with cardiac arrest, 733 children, had no documented VF or tachycardia. A majority of the group, 602 patients, was known to have asystole (no heart contractions) or no pulse at the start of cardiac arrest. This group had intermediate outcomes: 27 percent survived to hospital discharge.
The researchers were surprised that this group with no VF had better outcomes than children with subsequent VF. Unlike patients with VF, shock delivery with defibrillators does not help patients with asystole or pulseless rhythms.
The question of why survival outcomes from subsequent VF were so low is interesting and requires more research, according to the researchers. One possible explanation, said Dr. Berg, is that children with subsequent VF have more severe underlying heart disease. Another possibility is that clinicians are less aware of the possibility of subsequent VF, and may not diagnose and treat it until it is recognized very late in resuscitation efforts. If this is the case, he added, better recognition, diagnosis and treatment of subsequent VF might improve survival.
The authors point out that, although outcomes may vary, the majority of children with cardiac arrest do not survive to hospital discharge. However, they stress that "CPR and advanced life support are certainly not futile," even among the group with the worst outcomes — children with subsequent VF and tachycardia.
Based partly on data reported by the National Registry of CPR, the American Heart Association recently issued new guidelines for CPR and emergency cardiovascular care, both for children and adults. "Our findings reinforce the concept that CPR with early recognition of shockable rhythms remains a most important aspect of successful cardiac resuscitation," added Dr. Nadkarni, "but clearly, we need to continue to develop, teach and implement better strategies using registries and networks that help us to discern key aspects of cardiac arrest."
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Related Cardiac Arrest Current Events and Cardiac Arrest News Articles
Swift intervention doubles survival rate from cardiac arrest
A team of Swedish researchers finds that early cardiopulmonary resuscitation more than doubles the chance of survival for patients suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Less extensive damage to heart muscle/therapeutic hypothermia following acute myocardial infarction
After an acute myocardial infarction, patients treated with rapid lowering of body temperature by combined cold saline infusion and endovascular cooling had less heart muscle damage and reduced incidence of heart failure.
Cooling children after cardiac arrest provides no significant benefit
Although body-cooling has long been a standard of care in treating adults after heart attacks, a recently published multi-center study has concluded that the same procedure -- known as "therapeutic hypothermia" -- does not confer any survival-with-quality-of-life benefit for children who are resuscitated after suffering out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
Bystander CPR helps cardiac arrest survivors return to work
More bystanders performing CPR contributed to more cardiac arrest survivors returning to work in a Danish study published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Two treatments yield similar results for children after cardiac arrest
A large-scale, multicenter study has shown that emergency body cooling does not improve survival rates or reduce brain injury in infants and children with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest more than normal temperature control.
Therapeutic hypothermia provides little benefit to pediatric cardiac arrest patients, says Cohen Chi
A new, randomized clinical study co-authored by Cohen Children's Medical Center's chair of pediatrics says there is little neurological benefit to using therapeutic hypothermia to lower a child's core temperature after an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
A recipe for long-lasting livers
People waiting for organ transplants may soon have higher hopes of getting the help that they need in time.
Selenide protects heart muscle in the wake of cardiac arrest
Damage to heart muscle from insufficient blood supply during cardiac arrest and reperfusion injury after blood flow is restored can be reduced by nearly 90 percent if selenide, a form of the essential nutrient selenium, is administered intravenously in the wake of the attack.
Physically active middle-aged adults have low risk of sudden cardiac arrest
Sudden cardiac arrest during sports activities is relatively low among physically active middle-aged adults, according to research in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Neurologic function, temperature management in patients after cardiac arrest
Quality of life was good and cognitive function was similar in patients with cardiac arrest who received targeted body-temperature management as a neuroprotective measure in intensive care units in Europe and Australia, according to an article published online by JAMA Neurology.
More Cardiac Arrest Current Events and Cardiac Arrest News Articles