Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Hospitals Often Move Too Slow On Restarting Hearts

Wall Street Journal

Hospitals Often Move Too Slow On Restarting Hearts, Study Says
January 2, 2008 5:02 p.m.

American hospitals frequently take too long to restart stopped hearts after cardiac arrest, a new study found.

About half a million patients suffer cardiac arrest inside a U.S. hospital each year. Less than a third survive. In many cases, a medical device called a defibrillator can restart a stopped heart by delivering an electrical shock, but only if it's used quickly.

Since 1991, the American Heart Association has recommended that hospitals be ready to shock a stopped heart within two minutes after detecting cardiac arrest. But the study, published in Thursday's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, found that in 30% of cardiac-arrest episodes, hospitals waited longer than two minutes, leading to more deaths.

The study, led by Dr. Paul Chan, of the University of Michigan, analyzed data from 369 hospitals that participated in a voluntary Heart Association program that tracked defibrillator usage.

The study found that between 2000 and 2005, only 70% of patients received a shock within the recommended two minutes. For those patients, the chances of leaving the hospital alive were 39%.

About 17% of the patients were shocked in the third through the fifth minute. For them, the survival rate was 28%. And when hospitals took longer than five minutes to shock a patient, the survival rate fell to 15%...

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