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Cardiac arrest in COVID-19 pandemic: ‘Survival is possible’



In-hospital cardiac arrest, March Through May 2020

The early studies of in-hospital cardiac arrest in patients with COVID-19 showed “concerningly low rates” of return of spontaneous circulation and survival, said Dr. Mitchell.

“The first was a study from Wuhan, which demonstrated a 2.9% 30-day survival and the second was a small cohort from NYC with 0% survival to hospital discharge,” he said. “This raised concerns that offering CPR to patients who had a cardiac arrest from COVID-19 might only hold a low probability of success.”

To investigate this, the researchers formed a COVID study group comprising two hospitals in New York and nine hospitals in the Northeast and West Coast.

They identified 260 hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 who had in-hospital cardiac arrest between March 1 and May 31, 2020. The patients had a median age of 69 years, and 72% were male. Most had preexisting comorbidities. Most of the cardiac arrests were in the ICU (64%), and almost all were witnessed (91%).

Return of spontaneous circulation occurred in 22% of the patients, and 12% had survived 30 days later. Of the 260 cardiac arrests, most (204) occurred in the New York hospitals.

There was a huge variation in outcomes. The rate of sustained return of spontaneous circulation was much lower in the two hospitals in New York compared with elsewhere (11% vs. 64%), as was 30-day survival (6% vs. 36%).

“Variation in outcomes from [in-hospital cardiac arrest] has been well described prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Mitchell, “and is felt to be due to a range of factors, including variation in detection and prevention of cardiac arrest, management of patients during the cardiac arrest, and differences in postarrest care – including targeted temperature management and neuroprognostication.”

“We hypothesize that the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic may have amplified these variations (although we were unable to compare hospital performance before and after the pandemic),” he said.

Nevertheless, “in contrast to [earlier] studies, we have found that survival with a good neurological status is possible after in-hospital cardiac arrest in patients with COVID-19, which is certainly reassuring for those of us on the front line.”

Dr. Chan has received research support from the American Heart Association (which helps fund CARES); the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; and Optum Rx. Dr. Abella has received honoraria from NeuroproteXeon, Becton Dickinson, and Physio-Control, and research grants from Medtronic, PCORI, Physio-Control, Stryker, and TerSera. Dr. Mitchell has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

A version of this article originally appeared on


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