Alternative approach to improving survival of patients with out-of-hospital primary cardiac arrest

Gordon A. Ewy, Arthur B. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is a common cause of death. In spite of recurring updates of guidelines, the survival of patients with OHCA was essentially unchanged from the mid 1970s to the mid 2000s, averaging 7.6% for all OHCA and 17.7% for OHCA due to ventricular fibrillation. In the past, changes in one's approach to resuscitation had to await the semi-decennial publications of guidelines. Following approved guidelines (at times based on consensus), survival rates of patients with OHCA were extremely variable, with only a few areas having good results. An alternative approach to improving survival is to use continuous quality improvement (CQI), a process often used to address public health problems. Continuous quality improvement advocates that one obtain baseline data and, if not optimal, make changes and continuously re-evaluate the results. Using CQI, we instituted cardiocerebral resuscitation as an alternative approach and found significant improvement in survival of patients with OHCA. The changes we made to the therapy of patients with primary OHCA, called cardiocerebral resuscitation, were based primarily on extensive experimental laboratory data. Using cardiocerebral resuscitation as a model for CQI, neurologically intact survival of patients with OHCA in ventricular fibrillation improved in 2 rural counties in Wisconsin, from 15% to 39%, and in 60 emergency medical systems in Arizona, to 38%. By advocating chest compression only CPR for bystanders of patients with primary OHCA and encouraging the use of cardiocerebral resuscitation by emergency medical systems, survival of patients with primary cardiac arrest in Arizona increased over a 5-year period from 17.7% to 33.7%. We recommend that all emergency medical systems determine their baseline survival rates of patients with OHCA and a shockable rhythm, and consider implementing the CQI approach if the community does not have a neurologically intact survival rate of at least 30%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-118
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2013


  • cardiocerebral resuscitation
  • cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • compression-only CPR
  • out-of-hospital cardiac arrest
  • primary cardiac arrest

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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