Cranial computed tomography in the resuscitated patient with cardiac arrest

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Abstract

Introduction:

The incidence of out-of-hospital and in-hospital cardiorespiratory arrest from all causes in the United States occurs not infrequently. Postresuscitation care should include the identification of the inciting arrest event as well as therapy tailored to support the patient and treat the primary cause of the decompensation. The application of one particular testing modality, cranial computed tomography (CT) of the head, has not yet been determined. We undertook an evaluation of the use of head CT in patients who were resuscitated from cardiac arrest.

Methods:

Prehospital (emergency medical services), ED, and hospital records were reviewed for patients of all ages with cardiorespiratory arrest over a 4-year period (July 1996-June 2000). Information regarding diagnosis, management, and outcome was recorded. The results of cranial CT, if performed, and any apparent resulting therapeutic changes were recorded. Patients with a known traumatic mechanism for the cardiorespiratory arrest were excluded.

Results:

A total of 454 patients (mean age 58.3 years with 60% male) with cardiorespiratory arrest were entered in the study with 98 (22%) individuals (mean age 58.5 years with 53% male) undergoing cranial CT. Arrest location was as follows: emergency medical services, 41 (42%); ED, 11 (11%); and hospital, 46 (47%). Seventy-eight (79%) patients demonstrated 111 CT abnormalities: edema, 35 (32%); atrophy, 24 (22%); extra-axial hemorrhage, 14 (13%); old infarct, 12 (11%); new infarct, 11 (10%); intraparenchymal hemorrhage, 6 (5%); skull fracture, 5 (4%); mass, 3 (2%); and foreign body, 1 (1%). Therapeutic and diagnostic alterations in care were made in 38 (39%) patients—35 abnormal and 3 normal CTs. The following alterations occurred: medication administration, 26; withdrawal of life support, 7; additional diagnostic study, 6; neurologic consultation, 6; and intracranial pressure monitoring. 4. No patient survived to discharge.

Conclusion:

In this subset of resuscitated patients with cardiac arrest, abnormalities on the head CT were not uncommon. Alterations in management did occur in those patients with abnormalities. The indications and impact of head CT in the population of resuscitated patients with cardiac arrest remain unknown, warranting further investigation.

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