COVID-19 patients survive in-hospital cardiac arrest at pre-pandemic rates

It isn’t a death sentence if a COVID-19 patient suffers a cardiac arrest while getting treatment for the virus in the hospital, according to new research that contradicts reports from early on in the pandemic. The new insight from a researcher in the Perelman School of Medicine still shows that such events remain deadly, but can be survived at a rate likely near what it was among other hospital inpatients before the pandemic broke out. This analysis was presented during the American Heart Association’s annual scientific meeting this month.

Heart rate being monitored on cardiogram in a hospital room.

“Early studies showed extremely low rates of COVID-19 patients who were resuscitated successfully and went on to survive after suffering from cardiac arrest. The first study from Wuhan demonstrated just a 2.9% 30-day survival rate, and a second small cohort from New York City showed absolutely no survival,” says Oscar Mitchell, a fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Center for Resuscitation Science. “These results, of course, raised concerns that offering CPR to these patients wasn’t accomplishing anything and may have just been exposing hospital staff to the virus. But our results showed survival with a good neurological status is very possible if CPR is attempted.”

Examining data from between March and the end of May 2020 at 11 different hospitals across the U.S., Mitchell and his fellow researchers identified 260 patients with COVID-19 who suffered cardiac arrest—a complete loss of heart rhythm—while in the hospital for treatment. During that time, the data showed that 22% of those patients were able to be revived. After their cardiac arrests, 12% of patients survived the events for at least a month, a standard marker for mortality when researching adverse health events.

Overall, the rates of successful resuscitation were still about a third of what they were before COVID-19, and the 30-day survival numbers were half. However, those rates could have been skewed by the variation in outcomes by hospital.

This story is by Frank Otto. Read more at Penn Medicine News.